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Ruling upholds Marsh Pike rezoning

October 11, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY

andrews@herald-mail.com

A state appellate court has upheld the Washington County Commissioners' rezoning of a Marsh Pike parcel more than two years ago.

In a decision filed Sept. 29, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that a Washington County circuit judge correctly sided with the commissioners.

On March 13, 2003, the commissioners gave developer Paul Crampton Jr. approval for a planned unit development on 97 acres near where Marsh Pike meets Leitersburg Pike.

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A planned unit development designation allows town houses and greater housing density, the county has said.

Crampton proposed building 269 town houses, duplexes and single-family homes. His plan, known as Emerald Pointe, also called for a 126-unit retirement center, a community center and 9,000 square feet of commercial buildings.

The Washington County Planning Commission had recommended rejecting the zone change, saying it would be incompatible with the area and would increase traffic congestion.

A group of nearby residents filed an appeal in Washington County Circuit Court in April 2003 over the County Commissioners' decision.

They questioned allowing testimony by unsworn witnesses, if the commissioners had adequate evidence for their decision and whether a planned unit development "floating zone" can be allowed if there's no proof nearby roads can support it.

After a circuit judge ruled for the County Commissioners, the residents appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which also ruled in favor of the commissioners.

The Court of Special Appeals' written decision says no one objected to the lack of oath during a public hearing or a 10-day window afterward.

Even without the unsworn testimony, the County Commissioners appeared to have "substantial evidence" when they voted, the Court of Special Appeals wrote.

The decision also says "the statute does not state, or even imply, that the County Commissioners must assure themselves, at the time of re-zoning, that roadways adjacent to the property are able at that time to accommodate future traffic generated by the uses of the PUD."

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