Developer files appeal in ruling on townhouses; Lawyer says commission failed to meet deadline


A developer who wants to build 27 townhouses near Main Street in Ellicott City has appealed a decision by Howard County's Historic District Commission to deny approval of the project.

Thomas M. Meachum, the lawyer for developer Michael Pfau, filed the appeal in Howard County Circuit Court late last week.

About two weeks ago, more than a month after the commission voted to deny the development off Fels Lane, Pfau shocked many critics by declaring that he planned to build anyway. Meachum said the commission did not submit a signed denial within the 45 days required by law, and therefore the project could legally move forward.

Meachum said he filed the appeal Friday to protect his client "on the off chance that they might not accept my motion."

"I had to do it to protect my client's rights," he said.

The Historic District Commission might address whether to accept Meachum's motion for a certificate of approval at its next meeting, at 7: 30 p.m. Feb. 4.

Thomas P. Carbo, legal adviser to the commission, said three people who testified against the project last fall wrote letters urging the commission to deny Meachum's motion. The letters were due Tuesday.

Sally Bright, an Ellicott City activist who opposes the development, said she wrote a letter. She said the commission voted within 45 days, even though the panel did not sign a piece of paper within that time, and according to the Howard County code that's sufficient.

"I looked at the Howard County code, and it says they should act within 45 days, but it doesn't say how," she said. "So I think they [Pfau and Meachum] were putting the narrowest of spins on it.

"He's saying 'act' means the piece of paper, and I'm saying 'act' means they voted," she said.

Carbo said two weeks ago that the members acted in a timely fashion according to law.

Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, seemed unfazed by Pfau's recent attempt to circumvent the will of the Historic District Commission.

"A good attorney takes everything that's out there and throws it against the wall," Rutter said.

He predicted that Pfau would relent.

"He'll re-evaluate I think, as time goes on, and look at other options," Rutter said.

Pub Date: 1/22/99

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