September 9, 2014 Minutes |

Charles County, Maryland

September 9, 2014 Minutes

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


The Board of Appeals held its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room of the Charles County Government Building, La Plata, Maryland. 

The following were present:

Brendan Moon, Vice Chairman
Frederick Mower
Lynn Green
Shannon Houston-Smack
Sean Johnston, Alternate
Matthew Clagett, Associate County Attorney
Adam Storch, Associate County Attorney
Joseph Adams-Raczkowski, Program Manager, Planning
Aimee Dailey, Planning    
Erica Hahn, Planning
Carrol Everett, Clerk

  1. The Vice Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. and stated there was a quorum. 
  2. The Vice Chairman announced the process by which all Board of Appeals hearings are to be conducted.
  3. The Vice Chairman announced that anyone wishing to make a statement pertinent to the operations of the Board can do so at this time, excluding the items on tonight’s agenda.
  4. The Vice Chairman announced the resignation of the Chairman, Luke Hannah. 

Actions by the Board

A MOTION was made by Ms. Houston-Smack, seconded by Ms. Green, that Mr. Mower resume as Chairman for the remainder of the year.  All voted in favor and the MOTION passed.

A MOTION was made by Mr. Mower, seconded by Ms. Houston-Smack, that Mr. Moon continue as Vice Chairman for the remainder of the year.  All voted in favor and the MOTION passed.


7:03 PM, Public Hearing:  Docket #1313 - Elvan, Joan & Michael Hedges, for an expansion of a non-conforming situation, as provided in Article XXVII, Section 297-465 and Article XXV, Section 297-418 of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance. 

Mr. Clagett stated there was substantial compliance with the notification requirements.

Ms. Erica Hahn, Planning Staff, gave a brief summary of the request, using a location, zoning, and aerial map for reference:

  • Proposed:  Expansion of a legally non-conforming situation for a garage for towing, school bus storage, and repair business
  • Location:  2900 Camp Hedges Place,  Bryans Road, MD
  • Tax Map 5, Grid 18, Parcel 81
  • Zone:  Core Mixed Residential (CMR) and Core Retail/Residential (CRR) Zone
  • Site visit conducted on August 21, 2013 (16 photos presented)
  • Staff recommends approval with conditions as outlined in the Staff Report

John Hungerford, Esquire, represented the Applicants.  He briefed the Board on the history of the property.

  • Elvan and Joan Hedges are the owners of the property
  • There are several business uses on the property as outlined in the Staff Report
  • Approximately 2,000 cars stored on the subject property four (4) years ago. 
  • Approximately 200 vehicles still remain.  
  • Area A, subject to the previous approval, has become overgrown and is primarily wooded.  Approximately 30-40 vehicles still remain in this area after removing the rest to a fenced-in area (new Area A).
  • Applicant is willing to continue to remove the rest of the vehicles
  • There is a need in the County for towing of larger vehicles.

Mr. Hungerford summarized that the Applicant has consistently removed a large number of vehicles from the property and is continuing to do so.  Fencing has been done by the Applicant.  Within an 8-month period, he hopes to have the rest of the junk vehicles removed, except for the vehicles he is restoring.  The Applicant’s intent is to expand his towing and storage business for police use. 

The Chairman asked if the Applicant is in agreement with Staff’s recommendations for approval. 

Mr. Hungerford stated that the Applicant will work with both the State and County to resolve any issues regarding the entrance area.

The Chairman stated that he is familiar with the property.  He added that facilities with services such as these are needed in the County. 

There was discussion on a realistic timeframe for removal and relocation of all inoperable vehicles to the enclosed fenced area.

The Chairman swore in the following representative for the Applicant:

James Erdman
Ben Dyer Associates
La Plata, MD

Mr. Erdman discussed the issue of the entrance permit.

The Chairman recommended a 12-month deadline be applied to Conditions No. 4 and 5 of the Staff Report pertaining to removal and relocation of all vehicles and vehicle parts and compliance with driveway access standards as required by the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Mr. Clagett stated that if the deadline cannot be met, the Applicant can come back to the Board to request additional time.

There was no testimony from the audience.

Actions by the Board

A MOTION was made by the Vice Chairman, seconded by Mr. Johnston, to approve Docket #1313 with conditions of approval as recommended by Staff.  Conditions #4 and #5 of the Staff Report are to be amended with a 12-month deadline.  If the deadline cannot be met, the Applicant would have to come back for an extension of time request.  With all voting in favor, the MOTION passed

7:35 PM, Public Hearing:  Docket #1316 - Daniel Yates and Barbara Wall (continued from July 8, 2014), for a variance to the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area regulations for a driveway expansion in excess of lot coverage allowances, as provided in Article IX, Section 297-132 and Article XXV, Section 297-416 of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance.   

Adam Storch, Associate County Attorney on behalf of County Staff, made opening remarks.   He stated that the property is not unique for Cobb Island and that this is more a case of convenience rather than a serious undue hardship.  

A staff presentation was given by Ms. Aimee Dailey, Critical Area Planner, using a location, zoning and vicinity map for reference.   The following findings of fact were included in the presentation:

  • Variance request:   An after-the-fact variance for a driveway modification in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.
  • Zoning:  Village Residential (RV) and Limited Development Zone (LDZ) overlay of the Chesapeake Bay Critical  Area and Buffer Modification Area
  • Property address:  12396 Neal Sound Drive, Cobb Island, MD
  • Property size: Approximately 15,257 square feet
  • Waterfront lot created prior to the Critical Area Program adoption
  • Current Single Family Dwelling completed in 2002
  • Applicant purchased property in 2011
  • An anonymous complaint was received in 2012.  A subsequent initial County inspection revealed the drive-way expansion without permits did exist.
  • Expansion included new lot coverage, a new driveway entrance for a total of two (2), plus improvements within the County right-of-way.
  • November 28, 2012 - Violation notice was issued to the Applicant
  • Planning Staff continually worked with the property owner (Applicant) and surveyor to resolve the issue or appear before the Board of Appeals.
  • Lot coverage maximums were exceeded and Staff could not administratively approve.
  • Staff found no unique circumstance or undue hardship.
  • Staff found the  request to be a direct result of actions taken by the Applicant without County approvals and not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. 
  • Staff recommends denial of the variance request as the driveway was constructed without permits.
  • Critical Area Commission does not support approval of the request as submitted.

Nancy Slepicka, Esquire represented the Applicants.

The Chairman swore in the Applicant:

Barbara Wall
12396 Neale Sound Dr.
Cobb Island, MD 20625

The Applicant provided background information leading up to the installation of the driveway.   She added that her husband is not present because he is in the hospital.

Questions from the Board included the following:  When was the driveway put in?  Did you do any other improvements at that time? 

Ms. Wall stated that she was unaware of a permitting problem until she received a letter from the County in November 2012.

Ms. Wall stated that she was unaware that the property was in the Critical Area or that the Critical Area existed.  If she had known of the Critical Area and its regulations, she would have applied for a permit.

The Chairman asked the Applicant if she received a copy of the house location survey when she and her husband went to settlement on the house.  Ms. Wall replied that they did not receive a house location survey as it was owner financed and not required.   

The Applicant testified there was a safety issue backing out of the previous driveway due to poor visibility.  

Ms. Slepicka stated that the Applicant is proposing to remove approximately 1,000 square feet of driveway and reduce the width from 12 ft. to 10 ft. to minimize impervious surface. 

The Chairman asked for confirmation that the Applicant is still proposing a second entrance that is not allowed under the Road Ordinance. 

A variance to the Road Ordinance was denied by the Codes, Permits & Inspection Services Division Chief.  Ms. Slepicka stated that she filed an appeal of the denial for a second entrance to the Director of Planning & Growth Management.

The Vice Chairman stated that part of the Applicant’s justification for a variance is to improve visibility.  However, the new second entrance has worse visibility than the first entrance due to the area of Audrey Road being undeveloped and wooded.   

The Chairman asked for credible evidence to approve the request given there are violations to the Critical Area Law and County Road Ordinance and permits were not obtained.

Ms. Slepicka stated they believe there is a site distance problem from the original driveway. 

The Chairman swore in the following representative for the Applicant:

James W. Whitehead
Waldorf, MD 

Mr. Whitehead described the difference between a single vs. circular driveway and site distance configuration. Applicant Exhibits E and F illustrate the position of the car backing out of the premises.  He talked about a large tree in the County right-of-way that contributed to unsafe exiting from the previous singular driveway.

Ms. Slepicka stated that site distance obstruction is the primary focus of the safety issue.  She added that other elements referenced by Mr. Whitehead (angle, ditch, 16 ft. wide road) were contributing factors that created the uniqueness.

Questions by the Board included:   Is it a fair assessment to say that if the tree on the sidewalk is gone, does that eliminate the safety issue?  Is there another issue, besides the site distance that would be relevant to the variance?

Mr. Johnston asked if the Applicant registered any complaints with the Sheriff’s/Department/Community Association, etc. about speed enforcement on the street.  The Applicant responded that no such complaints had been made. 

The Chairman stated that the Applicant would not accept other solutions offered by County Staff. 

The Vice Chairman stated that relevant to this case is whether or not a unique circumstance exists for this property.  He added that there has been no traffic evidence over a course of a decade to document collisions or injuries that would help substantiate a unique circumstance with this property. 

Mr. Johnston stated that he has not heard evidence to grant the retroactive variance. 

Ms. Slepicka asked the Board for a 30-day continuance to allow time to work with Staff for alternative solutions.

Ms. Wall made closing remarks.
There was no testimony from the audience.        

Actions by the Board

A MOTION was made by Mr. Johnston, seconded by Ms. Green, to deny the variance for Docket #1316.  With all voting in favor, the MOTION passed.   


A MOTION was made by the Vice Chairman, seconded by Ms. Smack, to approve the Minutes for July 22, 2014 as presented.  With all voting in favor, the MOTION passed. 

The meeting adjourned at 9:37 p.m.