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Queen Anne's County board says goodbye Ruby Tuesday's
Appeals board overturns planning board, QA's County Commission rulings
By CAINE CORTELLINO, Staff Writer, The Star Democrat, February 8, 2008

CENTREVILLE - After a brief executive session, members of the Queen Anne's County Board of Appeals unanimously overturned the Planning Commission's July 2007 approval for construction of a Ruby Tuesday's restaurant near the corner of State Routes 18 and Route 522, next to Chesapeake Outdoors. 

Citing failure of the site-plan to fulfill prerequisites detailed in the county code regarding building design and concerns of increased danger to citizens resulting from additional traffic, Board of Appeals Chairman William D. Moore concluded there were sufficient grounds for the new ruling.

"There were two items, traffic and guidelines," said Moore. 
"Certainly, the traffic, I thought, was the most serious issue of all. They did not comply with the design guidelines, but I still think traffic was the most important issue in the case," he said. 

Led by Chester resident Jack Broderick, the appeal was filed by four Kent Island residents and the Queen Anne's Conservation Association in August 2006, less than a month after county commissioners approved the proposed traffic mitigation plan and the planning commission gave the go ahead on the site-plan. 

The decision was handed down at a 4 p.m. hearing as with attorneys for the developer and property owner as well as the appellants eagerly looked on.

Prior to this meeting, the appeals board had already held two lengthy hearings on the matter examining significant amounts of evidence from both sides. At a Dec. 13, 2006 meeting, the board heard expert testimony from Steven J. Cohoon, chief of Land Use and Zoning for the county; Ken Schmid, a traffic engineer and owner of Traffic Concepts; Mathew T. Allen, a civil engineer with Bohler Engineering, in addition to many citizens.

Attorney Joseph Stevens, representing the developer, argued at earlier hearings that there were not "any capacity problems to fix."

Testimony in favor of the restaurant did not appear to sway board members as they reviewed the evidence anew, however. 
Prior to the meeting at the county's Coursevall Drive location, appeals board attorney Stephen H. Kehoe counseled members that it did not appear the developer had adequately fulfilled the design standards described in the county code and valid traffic safety concerns existed.

"I suggest that the gulf between the guidelines set forth in Section 18:1-28.D(5) and the proposed site plan is so wide that it is impossible to conclude that the developer made the requisite good faith effort to comply with the guidelines," wrote Kehoe in a memo to the Board.

During the meeting, Kenneth Scott, appeals board vice chairman, tried to broker a compromise that would have not completely overturned the planning commission's decision. 

Scott suggested the board should not approve the site plan as is, but rather seek further concessions on mitigating increased traffic beyond the $11,000, which he, along with the other board members and the appellants, deemed inadequate.

According to transcripts of the hearing he wanted the "developer to come back and show a good faith effort to comply with the design guidelines set forth ..."

Kehoe told the board, in his memo, the "cost in lieu of fee" satisfied requirements in the county code and was not a valid basis for reversal.

The Scott motion failed to receive any support from the other members and was removed from consideration. 
Board member Howard Dean immediately moved to have the appeal granted on the other issue cited by Moore and the Kehoe memo, arguing the "proposed high turnover restaurant will substantially increase traffic hazards."

"The proximity of the subject use to this overpass turning left across Postal Road to have access from westbound 50/301 or areas north of 50/301 creates an undue hazard at this location," said Dean.

Moore said the site is a difficult place to situate any type of new business that would affect the area's traffic flow. 
"This lot is so unique that no matter if Title 18 was 10,000 pages, you just cover everything," said Moore before calling for the final vote on the measure.

Scott agreed with Dean's conclusion, but asked that his previous point on design guidelines be included. The motion to grant the appeal was approved without further discussion.

After the hearing, Jack Broderick called it "the right decision." 
"They cited there principal concerns regarding the traffic situation, with traffic coming in from all directions. And they included our issues concerning the design of structures on Kent Island" said Broderick. "They understood the concerns of the citizens I applaud them, they listened and I only wish it had happened much earlier. I wish the same kind of scrutiny had been given by the planning commission when they first heard the case." 

Others joining Broderick and the Conservation Association in the suit included his wife, "Liz," and Stephen J. and Paula M. Kougoures. Richard Altman of Bennett Point Road in Queenstown is the head of the Conservation Association and active in many local planning issues.

"I am very pleased, I feel that the Board of Appeals did right," said Altman. 
He added this case is an example of why Queen Anne's County needs to keep the Board of Appeals. "This is why I feel so strongly that the Board of Appeals is a part of the chain for developers and citizens. They , too, have the right. I am a strong believer that the Board of Appeals is useful and necessary," he said, adding, the court acts only on the record made at the lower level. "I am sympathetic with the planning commission. They have so many applications to process, they don't have the time or luxury to go into the additional depth a Board of Appeals allows for."

Attempts to reach Stevens for comment were unsuccessful before The Star Democrat went to press.


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