Plans for an eight-story office building along Falls Road moved a step forward yesterday when a state appeals court ruled that neighbors seeking to block the proposal filed suit too early.
The Court of Special Appeals ruled that neighbors of Foxleigh Enterprises' proposed building at Falls and Greenspring Valley roads must wait until a final decision is reached by Baltimore County before challenging the county's review process.
"There is not yet a final action that can be appealed," Judge Andrew L. Sonner wrote in a nine-page opinion.
Opponents of the project called the ruling a setback but said yesterday they are considering future legal challenges to try to block the project.
"We don't see this as an overwhelming victory" for Foxleigh, said Michael Friedman, vice president of Greenspring Home Owners Association, which filed the appeal. "The project isn't going to go away, but neither are we."
Foxleigh Enterprises, developers of Green Spring Station at Falls Road, announced plans in 1998 for a 160,000-square-foot building with a first floor of retail shops, five levels of parking and three upper stories of office space.
Foxleigh filed a request with county officials April 15, 1998, seeking guidance as to whether the proposal was a "material change" from a plan approved for the site in 1983, or a "refinement" that would require only minor revisions.
Arnold Jablon, director of the county Department of Permits and Development Management, responded with a May 12, 1998, letter saying that the plan was a "material change."
But Jablon's letter also said that Foxleigh would only have to go through the less stringent approval process required when the plan was approved in 1983, according to the opinion.
The homeowners group filed suit, alleging that the plan should be subject to the more stringent regulations that the county adopted in 1990.
The newer rules require notice of development plans to neighbors, disclosure of key elements of the plan and "an opportunity for input at every critical stage of the development review process," according to the opinion.
Friedman and Jack Dillon, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council, a preservation group, said they are concerned about the project's effect on traffic at the heavily traveled intersection of Falls and Greenspring Valley roads.
"It's already handling too much traffic," Dillon said.
But Stuart Kaplow, Foxleigh's lawyer, said that the intersection's condition isn't relevant to the approval process and that the roads are sufficient for area traffic.
"If you did a test today, you'd find that it isn't a failing intersection," Kaplow said.