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Condominium proposal could end court dispute over Roberts Field plan; Hampstead council, developer negotiating


Hoping to avoid further legal expenses, Hampstead officials will hold a public hearing tomorrow on a proposal to allow developers to build 66 rather than 90 condominiums in Roberts Field.

The town sought to halt construction of the condominiums by builder Martin K. P. Hill and Woodhaven Building and Development Inc. in 1996. A final construction permit was denied, mainly because of concerns about open space and density.

That permit would have allowed Hill and Woodhaven to complete the last phase of the Roberts Field development, located east of Route 30 and south of Lower Beckleysville Road.

After the Hampstead Board of Zoning Appeals upheld the town's action in 1997, Hill and Woodhaven sued in Carroll County Circuit Court and had the board's decision overturned.

Hampstead officials appealed the Circuit Court decision of October 1998, seeking relief from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

"Anything can happen in appellate cases," said Haven N. Shoemaker Jr., a Hampstead attorney and town council member, explaining why town officials negotiated with the developers while pursuing an appeal of the Circuit Court decision.

"In negotiating the proposed agreement, we were seeking to eliminate the possibility of losing" the appeal, he said. "With the proposed agreement, we can gain a little on the open space and density issues."

The public hearing on the agreement will begin at 7 p.m. in the Hampstead Town Hall at 1034 S. Carroll St. The monthly Town Council meeting will follow.

Shoemaker and Councilman Lawrence H. Hentz helped broker the proposed agreement with the developer.

In ruling in favor of Hill and Woodhaven in October, Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. noted that the town had reviewed and approved the concept plan and granted hundreds of permits to the developer between 1984 and 1996, when Neil M. Ridgely, Hampstead's then town manager and zoning administrator, denied a permit that would have allowed construction to begin.

Hill, who has said that he has no plans to begin construction on the condominium project at this time, sought relief from Hampstead's Board of Zoning Appeals. That board upheld the zoning administrator, and the issue moved into Circuit Court.

Burns also noted that the town, zoning administrator and zoning appeals board did not oppose Hill on density or open space until 1996, well after the project's site-plan was approved in 1993.

Even after that legal victory, Hill had said that he wanted to meet with town officials "to see if we can't reach an understanding, that we can agree not to disagree, and then reach a decision."

That decision could come as soon as tomorrow's Town Council meeting, after public comment.

In other matters, the state Board of Public Works is expected to vote Wednesday on a Program Open Space grant request by Hampstead for $39,750 to install playground equipment at Towne Centre Park off West Street.

The grant amount equals 75 percent of the estimated cost to develop the play area adjacent to a basketball court.

If the grant is approved, the county and town will each contribute $6,625 to complete the project.

Pub Date: 2/08/99

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