Court says developer needs to file plans


A Baltimore County Circuit judge ruled yesterday that developers must go through the county review process before they can build two office buildings and a parking garage on a parcel that lies at the entrance to Green Spring Valley.

The decision by Judge John F. Fader II came in a suit filed by William and Loretta Hirshfeld, who want to build an office complex on a 5.5-acre tract at Greenspring Valley and Falls roads.

Fader ruled, based on testimony at a hearing April 4, that the Hirshfelds need to submit their plans to the administrative review process before they can sue in Circuit Court.

"For me to rule otherwise would be to go against a number of appellate court decisions and that I cannot do," Fader told lawyers for the Hirshfelds yesterday.

Howard G. Goldberg, one of the Hirshfelds' attorneys, said he would appeal Fader's decision to the Court of Special Appeals and file papers to have the project at the northeast corner of the intersection reviewed by the county zoning commissioner.

"I think [Fader's] just plain wrong," Goldberg told a group of development lawyers after Fader announced his ruling.

Plans for the project call for 86,900 square feet of office and retail space spread among a six-story office building, a five-story office building and a four-story parking garage to be built at the site of the Greenspring Racquet Club.

The plans call for razing the racquet club.

Goldberg had argued that a county law, enacted in 1998, would make it impossible for the development to be approved.

The law requires a hearing officer's approval for any building more than 35 feet high to be built within 750 feet of a rural conservation area. The racquet club property lies adjacent to such an area.

The law was passed after the project plans were announced and residents began lobbying county officials for tighter controls of the heavily traveled intersection,

Goldberg had argued that the law was unconstitutional and that the county should he forced to pay compensation to the Hirshfelds.

Goldberg said county officials have done everything possible to block the project, including passing the 1998 law.

But Arnold Jablon, director of the Department of Permits and Development Management, testified before Fader on April 4 that the Hirshfelds' development plan was never submitted to a county zoning commissioner, who could have granted an exemption.

He said lawyers for the Hirshfelds balked at submitting development plans because they knew there would be a series of lengthy administrative appeals filed by community groups opposed to the project.

"They didn't want appeals," Jablon told Fader, "because it would delay them."

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