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Neighborhoodsby Fern Shen9:10 pmAug 31, 20180

Appeals court sides with opponents of Hamilton Royal Farms gas station

The Zoning Board misread the law when it granted a conditional use for the 12-gas-pump store in Northeast Baltimore, the court said

Above: In 2012, residents rally in opposition to a Royal Farms at the intersection of Glenmore Avenue and Harford Road. (Fern Shen)

In the latest twist in Hamilton residents’ seven-year-long battle against a proposed Royal Farms gas station and convenience store, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals today overturned a 2013 Zoning Board decision favoring the project.

Two Farms Inc., the convenience store chain’s corporate parent, needed “conditional use” approval to install gas tanks at the intersection of Harford Road and Glenmore Avenue in Northeast Baltimore.

The Zoning Board granted the conditional use, and in 2016 a Circuit Court judge affirmed the board’s decision.

The Glen Ham Bel Har Association filed an appeal against Two Farms and the mayor and City Council, challenging Circuit Court Judge Alfred Nance’s decision.

For project opponents, including 10 nearby community associations – who have persisted through two mayoral administrations and Council representatives – it was a big win.

Residents have argued that the proposed 12-gas pump store across from a library branch and near homes and schools would generate dangerous additional traffic and hurt quality of life in the neighborhood.

“This is a significant victory for the neighbors!” Hamilton resident Roop Vijayan wrote, announcing today’s opinion on social media.

Two Farms could not be reached late Friday for comment.

Wrong Standard

The board had granted the conditional use for the project because it found no additional problems created by the gas pump use beyond those to be created by a convenience store, which is permitted in that location.

The residents contended that the board misread Schultz v. Pritts and was applying a standard that was specifically rejected in that 1991 decision. In a 20-page ruling, the Court of Special Appeals agreed.

“We hold that the board misapplied the law,” the judges wrote, particularly when the board held that the zoning requirements would be satisfied because “the community would be dealing with the same [adverse effects] with or without the gas station.”

The judges rejected the residents’ other argument that the Zoning Board erred in failing to post a hearing notice on the building.

Attorney John C. Murphy represented the residents.

The Appeals court’s action vacated the Circuit Court’s judgment and remanded the case back to the Circuit Court, directing it to remand the case back to the Zoning Board “to properly apply the legal principle” set out in Schultz.

If Two Farms continues to move forward with the project, that means opponents would have to show that this location causes traffic, road alignment or other issues that make that specific location of a gas station more burdensome than other locations within the same zoning district.

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