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Decision on Promenade back to planning panel; Judge gave go-ahead for shopping complex


A decision on the Promenade, a proposed $32 shopping and theater complex in Eldersburg, once again falls to the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission.

The county commissioners discussed the Promenade briefly yesterday but deferred comment to the planning commission, which must decide whether to appeal a circuit judge's opinion. Last week, the judge upheld a county zoning board decision allowing construction of the complex.

The developer is preparing for the planning commission's review of a site plan for the 36-acre industrial site at Route 32 and Londontown Boulevard.

In July, the first time the project came before the commission, the seven-member panel noted concerns about traffic and the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Members differed with the Board of Zoning Appeals' decision allowing construction and requested an opinion from the Circuit Court.

The court reviewed six days of testimony and upheld the zoning board.

"The BZA concluded that the proposed business center would not adversely affect the Eldersburg area," Judge Raymond E. Beck wrote. "This court should not substitute its judgment for that of the BZA."

Beck criticized "the internecine warfare" between county agencies at the outset of the court hearing Jan. 11.

"We look like a bunch of children fighting with each other," said Maurice E. "Ed" Wheatley, planning commissioner.

The planning commission has 30 days to decide whether to file suit with the Court of Special Appeals. Several planning commissioners said yesterday that they have had no time to review Beck's decision but expect to discuss it in closed session next week.

"We are concerned with the major impact on the roads that would create conditions hazardous to citizens," said Debbie Ridgely, commission chairwoman.

Thomas Hiltz, commission vice chairman, said the panel needs to review Beck's opinion and decide "based on the merits of the case and our chances in a higher court.

"There is no reason to drag the county and the citizens through another appeal if I don't think there is an opportunity to win," said Hiltz.

The commission has taken the appeals board to court unsuccessfully more than a dozen times in the past two years. Funding for the appeals hinges on approval by the county commissioners. In July, Commissioner Donald I. Dell voted against funding the Promenade suit but was outvoted by his two colleagues, who have since left office. The new board said yesterday that it awaits the planning commission's decision.

"I would love to see an appeal, because I think the BZA was erroneous, but I don't foresee that happening," said Roberta Windham, an Eldersburg resident who opposed the center. "Suits become less and less winnable every time you lose. Opponents need deep pockets, and the commission needs the courage of its conviction."

Wheatley, who did not favor the original appeal on grounds that it could not be won, said yesterday that he will not vote to further the appeal. "The courts look at the BZA as experts on zoning," he said. "Legally, I don't think we can do anything."

William Dulany, attorney for Talles-Robbins Development Co., said the Pikesville investment company is proceeding with the development and expects the project to begin its journey through the county's lengthy development review.

Windham and other residents who have opposed the Promenade will be following the process closely.

"We want to be vigilant with the site review to make sure the center has the least impact and is the least offensive possible," she said. "We hope the developer will invite the community into the planning process."

The developer is willing to work with residents, Dulany said.

"The developer wants to liked in the community and to make the project an asset to the community," he said.

Pub Date: 2/24/99

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