History of the Becker Property Development Plan
In 2003 the FRCA opposed the proposed development plan for the Becker property, a parcel of 79 acres located on Falls Road (12100 block) just south of Applecroft Lane. The original proposal consisted of 20 homes, with access to 8 lots off Ridgemont Road, 1 off Wally Court and 11 off Falls Road. The FRCA was concerned about potential environmental impacts on the partially wooded and hilly parcel, and traffic safety near the Falls Road entrance. Over the course of several years, there were hearings and rulings on the proposal. During the latter stages of the process, FRCA worked with representatives of Gaylord Brooks (the second developer involved with the project) to modify the plan and successfully remedy several environmental issues. In 2006, Deputy Zoning Commissioner John Murphy approved development of 8 lots off Ridgemont Road and 1 on Wally Court, but denied approval of the lots off Falls Road, in part because of concern about traffic safety issues in the area. The main issues were: 1) inadequate sight distances, 2) the access road was not aligned with Hickory Hill Road, and 3) access was by public road.
A modified plan, 2015
A modified development plan for the Falls Road lots was submitted to the County in 2015. The new plan allowed for one existing home to remain and the addition of 8 new homes on the 59-acre Falls Road portion of the property, with a public road to serve the 9 homes. Both the County and the FRCA had traffic experts testify, and both testified that the AASHTO intersection sight distance standard was not met by the development plan. Administrative Law Judge/Hearing Officer John Beverungen denied approval of the plan in August 2016. He noted that he was bound by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, i.e., that he was bound by the issues and conditions set forth in the Oct. 2006 order by John Murphy that there had to be “substantial” changes from the original development plan for the Falls Road portion to be approved in the future. Two fewer homes was not deemed a “substantial” change.
Another modified plan, 2018
Another modified plan was submitted to the County in 2018 allowing for 6 homes – one existing, 5 new homes, with access by a private road. ALJ Beverungen approved the new plan on February 6, 2019. He considered the 50% reduction in number of 5 new homes from the original 10, a private rather than public access road, and individual storm water management devices on each lot rather than one large one, to be more numerous and significant than just the 2 fewer homes proposed in 2016. Based on these facts, Judge Beverungen opined that he was not bound by the doctrines of res judicata/collateral estoppel because they “do not apply if applicant can show there has been a substantial change in fact and circumstances”.
Traffic safety a substantial concern
While the number of homes has been reduced to 6 and the access road will be private rather than public, the FRCA contends that traffic safety remains a serious issue. There are still too many points of ingress/egress within a very short stretch of Falls Road, and the inadequate sight distances still exist. There have been numerous serious accidents at the site in the past. FRCA has appealed the ruling, and it will be heard May 1 at 10 AM in Room 206, 105 W Chesapeake Avenue, Towson.