The county Board of Appeals has ruled that a Crownsville developer may build a two-story home on a waterfront property in the historic community of Manhattan Beach - a lot that residents, fearing overcrowding, wanted to remain undeveloped.
Thomas McGrath Jr., who lives next to the property, and other residents have been fighting plans for the land, arguing that the lot is actually merged with an adjoining lot, and that only one house should be there.
They fear that putting a house on each narrow lot - originally meant for seasonal waterfront cottages - would result in crowding and decreased property values.
Homeowners in the neighborhood, established in the 1920s, have merged more than half the community's lots in order to accommodate full-scale houses. There are now 63 merged lots.
But the board ruled Friday that the 21-foot-by-40-foot home proposed by Severn Associates at 759 Dividing Road meets zoning criteria. The ruling upheld a Department of Inspections and Permits finding that the construction would not impair the light, air or view of adjacent property owners in the Severna Park neighborhood.
The board's decision comes after McGrath appealed the Department of Inspections and Permits ruling.
Severn Associates bought the entire piece of land for $312,000 in February last year with the plan of building two houses.
The two lots have been used as a single lot for years. The lot where the proposed two-story home was approved is vacant; a house, which the builder planned to replace, sits on the other lot.
McGrath said he is disappointed with the decision and will consult his attorney to determine his next course of action. He has 60 days to appeal the decision.
Steve Washington, president of Severn Associates, said he was not sure when his company would begin building on the site.
In the decision, the board noted that the case primarily dealt with the residents' concerns about the issue of the merged lot and that little testimony pertained to the Department of Inspections and Permits decision. However, the board stated that because of jurisdictional limitations, it cannot determine whether the two lots are or were merged into one lot.
In a dissenting opinion, C. Ann Abruzzo wrote that the lot in question is not a separate, buildable lot because the two pieces of land were merged by the previous owner, who used the lots as one site by "improving the property with a shed, fence, driveway and septic tank."
Abruzzo noted that many homeowners in the community have houses built on lots larger than the one in question.
"The construction of a home on [the lot] would result in an even more intense use of property and is simply not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood," Abruzzo wrote.
Last month, a county hearing officer denied a zoning variance sought by Severn Associates to build a house wider than allowed on the other half of the land where the house now sits.
The company had wanted to tear down the existing house and build in its place a 26-foot-wide house, 6 feet wider than permitted.
Washington did not appeal the decision and instead will remodel the existing house.
McGrath and residents also opposed the building variance, again arguing a wider house would hurt the neighborhood.