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Walsh recuses herself from Elkridge zoning case; liquor store to come to Columbia

A Howard County official last week agreed to recuse herself from a case that would change the zoning on a proposed Elkridge development.

Zoning board member Liz Walsh, who also represents historic Ellicott City on the County Council, was asked by an attorney representing Elm Street Development to recuse herself from the case because of opposing testimony she gave before winning her council seat.

In March, lawyers labeled Walsh an “interested party opponent” of the housing plans and argued she could not “sit in judgment of this Petition without actual bias or prejudice, or at a minimum the appearance of bias or prejudice.”

Walsh criticized the fiscal analysis McLean, Va.-based Elm Street Development presented to the county on the project’s potential impact on enrollment in nearby schools after she had announced her candidacy for County Council last spring.

After Walsh recused herself May 8, the zoning board members determined they would review recordings from prior meetings instead of requiring developers to present their case again.

The previous zoning board declined to rule on the case last year, leaving the decision to the present board.

The property, off Route 1 near the Elkridge library, currently is under three different zoning classifications. Elm Street Development seeks to have it changed to a single residential zone in order to spread planned housing across the entirety of the nearly 35 acres of property.

Right now, the land is used as an auto salvage space, housing hundreds of old cars, school buses, tractor trailers and construction equipment. A rundown, vacant motel sits on the property near a road that was once part of Route 1.

Elm Street Development agreed to purchase the land for an undisclosed amount and estimated cleaning up the site, which contains petroleum-soaked mud, would cost at least $2 million.

The property is owned by Jimmy Roberts, who plans to sell to Elm Street Development if the zoning is changed.

Elm Street Development initially proposed placing 408 townhouses and apartments on the property. After making concessions community members and the previous zoning board, the developer whittled the number to 390 units.

Along with housing, the developer plans for the property to feature a park, a pool, two parking garages and shrubs and trees to shield the structures from cars passing by on Route 1.

In other news, the County Council, sitting as the Board of License Commissioners, Wednesday upheld a decision May 8 to allow The Loft Wine & Spirits to have a liquor license. The business, which will be owned by Joseph Quick, will open next to Wegmans in Columbia.

The license was contested by The Perfect Pour, an Elkridge liquor store two miles up the road.

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This story incorrectly suggested Elm Street Development was seeking to increase density on the Elkridge property.
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