December 2, 2023

Hotel owners lose appeal in CRS case | Local News

The owners of a Maugansville-area hotel have lost another appeal regarding a Community Rescue Service…

Hotel owners lose appeal in CRS case | Local News

The owners of a Maugansville-area hotel have lost another appeal regarding a Community Rescue Service station that has been planned next to the hotel since 2013.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals released its opinion last week, with the three-judge panel affirming a 2018 Washington County Zoning Appeals Board decision in CRS’s favor.

Raj Patel, who co-owns the Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham on Oliver Drive with his wife, Ranjan, said Wednesday they plan to appeal the ruling to the state’s highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Patel alleged the special appeals court made errors in its decision issued Tuesday.

The case revolves around CRS’s plan to build a station at the 13725 Oliver Drive property, which is off Maugans Avenue.

CRS wants to move an ambulance stationed at the Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co. to the planned new two-bay station.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome. We thought we would prevail,” CRS Chief Financial Officer Randy Brumbelow said Wednesday. “We just hope we don’t have anything else to block our progress in serving our community.”

Brumbelow said CRS officials were hoping Diamond Development Corp.’s appeal to the special appeals court would be the “last time that we would run into this type of obstacle.”

They will wait to see if another appeal is filed, Brumbelow said. CRS officials have some drawings for the new ambulance station ready and need to get them finalized and out to bid so the project can get started, he said.

The Patels have appealed the project several times, winning an appeal several years ago regarding an earlier site plan for the project because it didn’t include 75-foot buffers from adjacent properties.

CRS revised its site plan to include those buffers, then withdrew that proposal after the county adopted amendments clarifying the buffer didn’t apply to that property.

The county Planning Commission again approved a site plan in October 2017 that Diamond Development and the Patels appealed to the county zoning board and then to the Washington County Circuit Court.

The latest round of appeals centers on public-safety concerns regarding traffic that might back up onto Interstate 81.

The special appeals court considered whether the county zoning board failed to give first priority to safe and uncongested access to and from I-81 in approving the site plan.

Diamond’s legal argument has referenced a September 2013 letter from Sheriff Doug Mullendore expressing concern about traffic already backing up on the ramp close to the interstate during peak hours.

Mullendore wrote he could foresee traffic backing up the ramp onto the interstate if there is an Opticom device at that Maugans Avenue intersection and it interrupts the traffic light sequence. Emergency vehicles like ambulances can activate an Opticom device, turning traffic lights green to ease their route to an emergency.

The special appeals court disagreed with the appellants’ argument that the local zoning board “expressly acknowledged” and “affirmatively found” the new station would result in an unsafe traffic condition.

It appears the local zoning board observed that, with an ambulance passing through the intersection 2.65 times a day at most and other conditions needed for a backup to occur, such a situation would be an infrequent occurrence, the opinion states.

Patel said all CRS needs to do is move its planned station closer to the Burger King side of the property and put the driveway on the hotel side.

Brumbelow said CRS doesn’t own the land to move the planned station as far over as Patel wants.

In previous appeals, the hotel owners’ concerns have also included sirens and other noise from the ambulance station that would disturb hotel guests.

The special appeals court’s opinion was unreported, meaning it cannot be cited in papers, briefs or motions filed in Maryland courts as a precedent.