Wheat­lands plans will con­tinue, says Queen­stown

Record Observer - - Front Page - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­pub.com

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.

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