New shelter gets site plan approval

Friday, May 23, 2008

Project ECHO came one step closer to a new home Wednesday evening.

The Calvert County Planning Commission granted site plan approval May 21 to its proposed transitional housing and assisted living facility near the cluster of county government buildings in the Prince Frederick Town Center.

The building will replace the current Housing Authority building on Main Street, which will own and maintain the new facility. The building will be used as a homeless shelter with a capacity of 40 residents, Tom Reinecker, the building’s architect, told the commission.

The 12,234 square-foot building will include a walkout basement and a ‘‘habitable roof,” which Reinecker described as having an overhang and dormer windows.

Despite the institutional purpose of the building, it will fit in in Prince Frederick’s Old Town, the architect said.

‘‘The applicant really has gone out of [its] way to make the facility compatible with the Old Town architecture of Prince Frederick. It will appear to be a Victorian-style home,” Reinecker said.

Also at the planning commission meeting, an attorney for Majestic Homes announced that the company plans to challenge a provision of the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance on Constitutional grounds.

Attorney Chris Longmore told the commission that a provision requiring at least 20 housing units in neighborhoods designated ‘‘age-restricted,” or limited to residents older than 55, is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution because the requirement is unfavorable to small land owners and thus, in the company’s opinion, amounts to unequal treatment under the law.

Longmore said the requirement violates, for the same reason, the state Constitution and a separate provision of state law that allows counties to pass their own zoning ordinances.

At issue is Majestic Homes’ desire to build an 18-unit age-restricted subdivision on Dowell Road in Dowell. Longmore was earlier declined permission to comment on the application, by a rival developer, to build a 54-lot subdivision on land Longmore said was adjacent to Majestic’s property.

Planning Commission Attorney John Yacovelle advised the commissioners that neither they nor the Calvert County Board of [Zoning] Appeals has the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the zoning ordinance and so should not take Longmore’s argument into consideration when deciding whether or not to approve the subdivision.

But that advice did not mean Longmore’s argument was without merit, Yacovelle said.

‘‘The Board of Appeals does not have the jurisdiction to declare county ordinances invalid or unconstitutional and I think the same is true of the planning commission,” Yacovelle said. ‘‘I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with their argument. They may have merit. The question is whether they’re up the planning commission’s alley.”

No decision on the matter was made at the meeting.

In other business, the planning commission:

* gave the Prince Frederick Animal Hospital site plan approval for a new 8,000 square-foot facility on Stafford Road;

* gave the FaStop car wash in St. Leonard site plan approval to remove an old bank canopy and build a 1,200 square-foot addition to accommodate the car wash;

* gave final approval to three lots in Frasier’s Level on Broomes Island Road in Port Republic, 17 lots in Kinsey’s Ridge on Md. Route 2-4 in Prince Frederick and 54 lots in the Harbours at Solomons on Dowell Road in Dowell;

* gave preliminary approval to three lots in Aspen Woods on Pushaw Station Road in Sunderland and three lots on Chew Creek Farm on Plane Tree Drive in Owings.