Wheat­lands de­bated in court; pub­lic hear­ing set

Record Observer - - News - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­pub.com

AN­NAPO­LIS — The Mary­land Court of Spe­cial Ap­peals heard oral ar­gu­ments on Thurs­day, Nov. 3, on whether the Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers had the le­gal right to re­verse their de­ci­sion on a five-year wait­ing pe­riod for re­zon­ing the Wheat­lands prop­erty in Queen­stown.

The court hasn’t an­nounced when it will make a de­ci­sion on the mat­ter.

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the Wheat­lands’ owner ar­gued in court that rev­ers­ing the waiver on the prop­erty isn’t le­gal be­cause the Queen­stown gov­ern­ment has con­trol over the prop­erty since it was an­nexed into the town. But the lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the op­po­si­tion says the county has the right to re­scind its or­di­nances.

In a re­lated devel­op­ment, the Queen­stown Com­mis­sion­ers have sched­uled a pub­lic hear­ing for next month con­cern­ing the growth al­lo­ca­tion for the Wheat­lands prop­erty. The hear­ing is set for 7 p.m. Wed­nes­day, Dec. 14, at the com­mis­sion­ers’ of­fice, 7013 Main St. in Queen­stown.

Wheat­lands is a 148-acre track of land on Route 301 across from the out­let shops and near the Route 301 and Route 50 split. It has been pro­posed for com­mer­cial devel­op­ment. Some­times the prop­erty is re­ferred to as the Water­man prop­erty since it is owned by the Water­man Fam­ily Limited Part­ner­ship.

The is­sue be­fore the court goes back years. Queen­stown an­nexed the prop­erty in 2014 and re­ceived a waiver from the sit­ting county com­mis­sion­ers on hav­ing to wait five years to change the land use and zon­ing. But the new county com­mis­sion­ers were elected who re­scinded the waiver and Water­man took the mat­ter to the Cir- cuit Court of Queen Anne’s County, which de­clared the de­ci­sion by the new com­mis­sion­ers to be void and there­fore, the waiver was up­held.

Sev­eral cit­i­zens and the Queen Anne’s Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion ap­pealed the Cir­cuit Court’s de­ci­sion to the Court of Spe­cial Ap­peals. Their lawyer asked that the court to re­verse the Cir­cuit Court’s de­ci­sion, which would mean the waiver is void.

Be­fore the three-judge panel in the Court of Spe­cial Ap­peals in An­napo­lis, Jesse Ham­mock, who rep­re­sents the group who filed the ap­peal, cited the Mary­land Con­sti­tu­tion that “the county has an in­herit author­ity to en­act or re­peal or­di­nances.”

The devel­op­ment of Wheat­lands im­pacts those in Queen Anne’s County and meets the def­i­ni­tion of lo­cal pub­lic law, he said.

Joe Stevens, at­tor­ney for Wheat­lands, said that legally, if a prop­erty is an­nexed into a mu­nic­i­pal­ity, that mu­nic­i­pal­ity has con­trol over plan­ning and zon­ing of the prop­erty. Also, the law doesn’t say the county has the right to re­scind its waiver.

The ap­peal be­fore the Court of Spe­cial Ap­peals was filed by the Queen Anne’s Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and nearby res­i­dents Kath­leen Boomer, Marie J. McNurlan, Paul A. McLurlan and Stacy L. Swart­wood. Ed Modell, also a nearby res­i­dent to the prop­erty, filed a sep­a­rate case, but it deals with the same is­sue.

The county com­mis­sion­ers have dropped out of the case.

At their meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 26, the town com­mis­sion­ers in­tro­duced an or­di­nance, which ap­plies the growth al­lo­ca­tion float­ing zone dis­trict to re­clas­sify 59.70 acres of the crit­i­cal area lands within the prop­erty from re­source con­ser­va­tion area to in­tensely de­vel­oped area.

The owner, the Water­man fam­ily, hopes to build a com­mer­cial devel­op­ment on the prop­erty. A con­cept plan has been sub­mit­ted to the town, but it’s not the fi­nal plan.

The town’s Plan­ning Com­mis­sion on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 5, unan­i­mously rec­om­mended ap­proval of the growth al­lo­ca­tion for the Wheat­lands prop­erty. In April 2016, the prop­erty owner sub­mit­ted a pe­ti­tion for growth al­lo­ca­tion to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

The devel­op­ment could in­clude re­tail space, com­mer­cial space, of­fices, and an as­sis­tant liv­ing fa­cil­ity. At max­i­mum, 500,000 square feet of space can be de­vel­oped.

The prop­erty was in­cluded in the 2010 Queen­stown com­mu­nity plan as a planned an­nex­a­tion area with devel­op­ment an­tic­i­pated.

CON­TRIB­UTED GRAPHIC

This con­cept plan for the Wheat­lands prop­erty was pre­sented to the Queen­stown town com­mis­sion­ers by the Water­man Fam­ily Limited Part­ner­ship to give an idea how the land might be used. It is not a fi­nal plan.

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