Officials to decide fate of suit Tuesday Commissioners to vote on paying for appeal of zoning board ruling


The County Commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to fund a lawsuit challenging the Board of Zoning Appeals' approval of a proposed $32 million shopping center in Eldersburg.

The commissioners met with their attorney behind closed doors for 13 minutes yesterday to discuss the merits of the case being sought by the planning commission. The commissioners said they want to meet with members of the planning panel Tuesday morning before deciding whether to pay for the suit.

The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously June 16 to contest a Board of Zoning Appeals ruling allowing developer Bernard G. Robbins to build Promenade at Eldersburg. The proposed shopping center would house three restaurants, a 14-screen theater with stadium seating, a 300,000-square-foot retail complex and a two-story office center on 36 acres at Londontown Boulevard and Route 32.

The site is zoned for industrial use and after six days of hearings, the Board of Zoning Appeals voted 2-1 to allow the shopping center as a conditional use.

Nearby residents and merchants at a 2-decade-old shopping mall about a mile away opposed the Promenade plans so vigorously that Robbins' request for a conditional use became one of the most protracted cases in Board of Appeals history.

The opponents' attorney, Michelle Ostrander, has filed a "notice of intention to participate" in the planning commission's lawsuit.

Opponents sought to prove that the proposed shopping center would have a more adverse effect on the property than an industrial use, but board members Hoby D. Wolf and Karl V. Reichlin did not not find that argument persuasive.

A majority of the planning commission members did, however, and chose to appeal the zoning board's decision on three grounds: The real traffic impacts will be much worse than proposed by the applicant and be difficult, if not impossible, to mitigate.

Negative impacts on the neighborhood and lower property values are likely to occur and can't be mitigated by the developer.

The Freedom Area Mini Plan (to guide growth in the area) did not support or contemplate an intensive retail establishment on this site. The plan calls for light industrial uses in this section of the Freedom area.

When planning commission members voted unanimously last month to appeal the board's decision, they did so with the understanding that they could re-evaluate their position.

Tuesday night, they did exactly that.

Grant S. Dannelly of Marriottsville, Deborah L. Ridgely of Finksburg and County Commissioner Richard T. Yates, the commissioners' liaison to the planning panel, voted to continue to pursue the appeal. Maurice E. Wheatley of Sykesville and Edward M. Beard of Westminster voted to drop it.

"The neighbors had their day in court and lost, and I think we're going to have our day in court and lose," Wheatley said Tuesday. "I don't want to waste money on a lost cause."

Planning commission Chairman Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine, who does not vote except in the case of a tie, said that if County Commissioners agree to fund the appeal, they should be prepared to fund it all the way to Maryland's highest court, if necessary.

The initial cost of reproducing the exhibits and transcript of the Board of Zoning Appeals hearing required by the Circuit Court would be $7,145. An appeal to a higher court would cost several times that much, the commissioners were told yesterday.

Pub Date: 7/17/98

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