Worman’s Mill residents opposed to changes to their development will take their case to court after failing to get enough votes on the Frederick Zoning Board of Appeals to overturn the plan for the project.
Leslie Powell, the lawyer representing the 110 residents that make up Concerned Residents of Worman’s Mill, said after a zoning board meeting Tuesday that the group will appeal the case to Frederick County Circuit Court.
“We’re disappointed, but we’re not done yet,” Powell said.
The board’s lengthy discussions over several meetings over a period of weeks focused on whether the Frederick Planning Commission erred in not requiring the signature of all the homeowners in the development, as is required by the city's Land Management Code, if a revision to the property includes more than 10 percent of additional density of homes.
Three board members — Gail Colby, Ed Hazlett and Jim Racheff — agreed that the planning commission should not have allowed the change, but Philip Dacey and Bryan Patchan disagreed.
The five-member board requires a four-person majority for all decisions. Without that so-called “super majority,” the planning commission decision allowing the development to proceed was upheld.
“Certainly, we have a strong difference of opinion among board members,” Racheff said. “And we have a tremendous amount of input, not only among the board, but from the appellants and respondents, one that I think is very useful and appropriate. If this goes to circuit court we've done our due diligence.”
The appeals board first delayed making a decision on Aug. 28 on whether to overturn a decision by the city’s planning commission in January.
That decision allows Wormald, the developer of Worman’s Mill, to change its development plans from cafes and mom-and-pop shops to the construction of 171 apartments, 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and an assisted-living facility for senior citizens.
Dacey argued that the Frederick Board of Aldermen, in approving the Land Management Code in 2005, did not intend to make development impossible, contending that requiring signatures from each resident would be an impossibility.
Despite the ruling in his company’s favor, Ed Wormald, the principal for Wormald Development, said he was saddened by the lengthy appeals process, and has made several adjustments to the plan that residents have requested.
“I wish with all the community meeting, and changes for residents, that this wouldn’t be needed,” he said. “My desire is to create an area for the residents that enhances the community long term. ... Any ongoing activity is disappointing.”
The village center is the final phase of Worman’s Mill, which sits on 307 acres near the Monocacy River in northern Frederick city.
The neighborhood, first approved in 1986, was planned as a mixed residential and business neighborhood that would have had up to 1,500 townhouses, condominiums and single-family homes.
In 2009, the city approved Wormald’s plans to build the village center with 65,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 122 apartments and townhouses. But Wormald revised those plans, adding more homes.
The appeals board said on Aug. 28 that it needed time to mull over the three hours of testimony from the lawyers for Wormald and Powell. Board members said this was the first time they have been asked to reconsider a decision by the city’s planning commission.
Powell argued at that time that residents would not have purchased their homes if they thought that apartments and an assisted-living facility would be built nearby. She said residents should have been allowed to approve the changes to Wormald’s master plan.