From Bill Wehland of Bel Air:
I received an E-mail only hours before the Final Argument Hearing on Case 5781 Evergreen Business Trust (198 Apartments) from Mr. Brian Young, People’s Council Attorney as follows:
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
I want to advise you that a settlement is expected between People’s Counsel and the Evergreen Business Trust regarding final argument tonight. The settlement would have 12 conditions applied to the decision in amendment of the examiners decision. In exchange, People’s Counsel will be withdrawing from the case.
You will be able to proceed with your request for final argument. As Mr. Lynch has withdrawn his request for final argument, your request will be the only request pending.
Brian K. Young
Office of Peoples Counsel
I was handed the so called settlement five minutes before the start of the hearing and I objected to this procedure as being inappropriate and unethical on the part of the three attorneys getting together before the meeting i.e., Brian Young, Robert Lynch and County Council Attorney, Ms. Melissa Lambert. I was especially critical of Mr. Brian Young for proceeding without further communications with the people he represents or myself since he knew that I had also filed for a final argument. Mr. Young had previously agreed to proceed with his final argument for the people and broke this promise. I also did not agree with this being allowed by the Council Attorney.
(I had the opportunity to read this agreement after the conclusion of the hearing so my statements here were not part of my final argument. The first 7 conditions and number 10 on this agreement are ordinary items the Owner must do in the normal course of seeking approval and were not necessary so why was an agreement even written. Condition 8 was not necessary that units will be offered at market price. Condition 9, The applicant will inform the People’s Counsel of proposed substantial changes to the Site Plan is voided by the fact that People’s Counsel as part of the signed letter agreed to withdraw its appearance from the case and take no further legal action. I believe this also voids the entire agreement of conditions agreed to by the Applicant in the likely event the Applicant does not live up to the agreement. The only item that I believe was added is Item 11 Board Fence.
No where in the agreement is any mention of safety, public general welfare, dangerous traffic conditions and jeapordizing the lives of people living in the neighborhood. Any “conditional approvals” should not be allowed. Too often we see developers stating I will comply after you give me site approval when they are not in compliance and have no solution. Another one is in their professional opinion they meet the requirements or that a requested traffic analysis is not needed.)
Having said that here is the context of my Final Argument on September 10, 2013
FINAL ARGUMENT-CASE 5781
I live three tenths of a mile from the proposed 198 apartments. I attended all of the hearings in February. I filed for a request for final argument after receiving the Hearing Examiners Decision. With all due respect for Mr. Kahoe, he unduly amplified and agreed with all of the findings by those who testified for the applicant whom he called experts. He down played, omitted and even disagreed with the testimony given by either Mr. Young (People’s Council) the people testifying or the experienced representatives from the Planning & Zoning Department. The hearings were allowed to be dominated and controlled by Mr. Lynch (attorney for the Owner)
My conclusions for why this Special Development Request should be denied by the Council were part of my written and verbal testimony provided on the last night of the hearing. They are a matter of public record and transcript. It would be completely unfair to rely solely upon Mr. Kahoe’s findings in his report.
I provide my argument and rationale for denial this evening as follows:
1. The Department of Planning and Zoning reported and testified the applicant was not meeting the requirements of Section 267-9I of the Harford County Zoning Code. This section includes the limitations, guidelines, and standards by which Special Developments and Special Exceptions are reviewed. The applicant had technical deficiencies including NRD issues. The Planning and Zoning recommendation was to deny the request. Mr. Kahoe erroneously states on page 19 of his report under Item 2 as follows, “Despite the brouhaha concerning the traffic analysis, it is found that there is no requirement in the Board’s review of a special development or special exemption that Harford County be given sufficient information by an Applicant to come to a particular conclusion” Given the fact that he planned for and allowed for three weeks of testimony for the Applicant to provide sufficient information, how can this possibly be correct.
2. The argument by the applicant that the owner received special exemption approval for building the apartments (by Case no. 4214) in 1992 has no relevance 21 years later. It is null and void. Traffic conditions, zoning changes and laws have drastically changed since 1992. Mr. Dahan had the authority and opportunity to sell all his land and build apartments but elected not to.
3. An adequate and acceptable solution has not been determined for the intersection of Tollgate Road and Plumtree Road. At the hearing I provided a copy of a letter addressed to me from the Department of Planning and Zoning. The letter, in part, stated the Tollgate Road Extension would create a 4-way intersection at Plumtree Road and the new intersection would fail without improvements. As of this evening neither the developer, Harford County or the State Highway Administration has an acceptable traffic solution. This must be determined before any approval is given.
4. An adequate and acceptable solution has not been determined for the present four way intersection at Plumtree and MD Route 24. Any closure of Plumtree Road at MD 24, as presently contemplated, could result in possible loss of life and property for all the homes that would suffer from this closure. There are hundreds of elderly residents who have lived in their homes for many years who would be impacted. This is a major issue with emergency responders who did not know of the closure and will not support the closure.
5. The applicant and Mr. Kahoe did not provide any solution for the safety of people walking within the proposed development, those who cross MD 24, those driving and walking on Tollgate Road and the safety of school buses and children at Emmorton and Abingdon Elementary schools.
6. Mr. Kahoe disagreed with the objection to this project expressed by a neighbor for privacy reasons. One wonders what his decision would be if this was his house and neighborhood.
7. A traffic impact study must be performed for Tollgate Road from US 1 down to Plumtree and if extended through the proposed apartment development from DuClaws down to I-95 and MD 24. There are twenty one connecting roads feeding into Tollgate Road from US 1 down to Plumtree, 3 traffic circles and more than 50 homes with their driveways directly to Tollgate Road. From DuClaws down to I-95 there are 40 more roads feeding into Tollgate Road and five traffic circles. The south side of Tollgate includes two schools, a library, and thousands of homes and apartments some still under development that must use Tollgate road to get to and from their homes. Adding the residents of the 198 proposed apartments who must use Tollgate road and all the additional cars that will use Tollgate when extended will result in an undeterminable number of unsafe and failing intersections by County and State standards. I request the Council carefully read pages 4, 5, and 19 of the decision for the irresponsible statements made by Mr. Glidden (landscape expert), Mr. Schmid (traffic engineering expert) and Mr. Kahoe (land and zoning attorney expert). Statements such as…. the completion of Tollgate will allow for orderly growth of the neighborhood; it will increase the fiscal health of the County; it will decrease traffic congestion in the area. Who are they kidding? These self proclaimed traffic experts do not live in the neighborhood, drive in the neighborhood and care less about the safety and welfare of the people as evidenced by their remarks. The real traffic experts and eye witnesses are the people living in the area who use these roads daily. They are the ones that will be impacted and suffer the consequences.
8. No conditional approval should be allowed for this development or any other development proposal in this area.
In conclusion, I provide you with an important, significant and pertinent Section of 267-9I of the Harford County Code that provides the Board of Appeals, the seven Council members , the power to automatically disapprove the application request.
“Not withstanding any of the provisions of this Part I, the Board shall not approve an application if it finds that the proposed project would adversely affect the public health, safety, and general welfare or would result in dangerous traffic conditions or jeopardize the lives or property of people living in the neighborhood”
Need I say more! That says it all! It is your duty as the Board of Appeals to enforce the provisions of this code and disapprove this request not only for lawful and justifiable reasons but for the people to whom you are entrusted to represent.