Wheatlands plans will continue, says Queenstown
QUEENSTOWN — Plans for the Wheatlands project will go forward and the town commissioners will weigh its legal options on a recent court decision, said Tom Willis Jr., president of the Queenstown commissioners.
Willis read the prepared statement at the commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, March 8, after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals on March 2 ruled that county commissioners were legally correct in reinstating a five-year waiting period to commercially develop the Wheatlands property.
With the court’s decisions, there can’t be a change in the substantial use of the 148acre Wheatlands property for five years, as the current Queen Anne’s County Commissioners decided.
The clock on the waiting period started ticking from the date of the annexation in the town, which was Nov. 8, 2014, meaning the waiting period will expire five years from that date, Nov. 8, 2019.
The appeals court ruled that the county commissioners were within their legal right to change their mind and rescind a waiver on the five-year waiting period
which the previous commissioners allowed.
Willis, during the town commissioners meeting, read a statement into the record. The town government was a party in the court case.
The town’s attorney, Brynja McDivitt Booth, is on vacation and the commissioners haven’t had a chance to meet with her to discuss the decision. “We are obviously very disappointed in the court’s decision,” Willis said, “because it appears to render the five-year zoning waiver meaningless. This case would have greater implications for all of the towns in Maryland and we will be weighing our options with the town attorney when she returns.”
Regardless of the court decision, “the town will continue its planning efforts on the development of the Wheatlands farm. We are half-way throughout the five-year hold and as a practical matter, this decision does not affect the ultimate development of that property. The property will be developed consistent with our comprehensive plan for the property going back 20 years,” Willis said.
The Waterman family, which owns the property, hopes to build a commercial development on the site, which could include retail space, commercial space, offices, and an assistedliving facility. At maximum, 500,000 square feet of space can be developed.
Already, the site’s property owner has cleared some governmental hurdles to successfully commercial develop the property. Besides the annexation, the Queenstown commissioners approved the growth allocation for the Wheatlands property at their meeting on Jan. 11.
All three commissioners voted in favor of an ordinance that allows the growth allocation and permits the rezoning of 60 acres of the property from resource conservation area to intensely developed area.
The growth allocation approval now goes to the Critical Area Commission for their approval or denial.