Council votes against sewerage extension; Ruling denies service to proposed townhouses at western county's edge

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Howard County Council voted unanimously last night to deny an extension of sewer service to a proposed townhouse complex for senior citizens at the edge of rural western county.

The 5-0 vote to approve a resolution reaffirming the county's desire to keep sewers out of the western county belied the soul-searching by several council members, who took pains to describe how carefully they examined the issue to be fair to developer Ahmad Bagheri.

"I've put more time into this bill than any other bill so far," said Guy Guzzone, a Laurel-Savage Democrat.

Western county Republican Allan H. Kittleman's district includes the 13.75 acres at Frederick and Folly Quarter roads, where Bagheri planned to build. Kittleman said he, too, had spent a lot of time looking into the issue.

Kittleman and Guzzone concluded that the county's intentions not to allow sewers were clear at the time Bagheri bought the land in 1994, even as public water was supplied to the area to counter ground-water pollution near the old Alpha Ridge Landfill. Bagheri wants to build 25 townhouses on his land.

After the vote, Bagheri said he might pursue the matter in court, which Guzzone suggested was the proper recourse. But Bagheri wasn't sure what to do.

"It definitely wasn't fair to me," he said, adding that he's lost about $250,000 on the deal for land that is worthless because it won't pass percolation tests that would allow private septic systems.

At last week's council work session, members seemed torn between the desire to keep sewers and development out of the western county and the equally strong impulse to be fair to Bagheri.

Bagheri, who owns the Friendship Pride restaurant near his land, said he bought the parcel because he believed he would be allowed to extend sewer lines from the adjoining Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center.

But county officials -- from County Executive James N. Robey on down -- have insisted that there was never any intention to allow sewers because of the danger that it would open the door to more development in the rural western county.

Public Works Director James M. Irvin has admitted his department erred in making changes to water and sewer maps after water lines were permitted that could have added to the confusion and misled Bagheri.

Adding even more confusion was a Board of Appeals decision in January approving the townhouse plan.

In other action, the council voted 3-2 to approve a resolution backing statewide legislation to raise cigarette taxes by $1 a pack to discourage teens from smoking.

Kittleman and fellow Republican Christopher J. Merdon voted against the measure, with Kittleman arguing that it would not achieve the stated purpose.

Pub Date: 3/02/99

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