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Votes

Houses by the Horses

Planning Board Approves six houses next to Callithea.

Six houses on five-acre lots will be built next to Callithea Farm. The 40-acre parcel sits between River Road and Callithea Farm.

Callithea Farm is about 100 acres of horse farm that abuts Blockhouse Point Conservation park and national parkland of the C&O Canal Historical Park. The county is in the process of acquiring Callithea as permanent parkland and equestrian center with the help of the owner and Friends of Callithea Farm.

Planning Board staff requested an equestrian trail easement along the southern border of the property to allow access to the farm, but the developer questioned the necessity of such an easement.

“Why isn’t the 12-foot pathway on Callithea Farm itself?” said Scott Wallace, attorney for the developer.

Wallace said that Park and Planning, which is in the process of purchasing Callithea, should put the easement on its own property.

“The obvious encroachment on private property is a little suspect,” he said.

Planning Board staff explained that they chose to put the easement there, because they would not have the chance to put it on the Callithea side for several years.

“It’s now or later,” said Richard Weaver of Park and Planning. “We chose now.”

David Tobin, of Friends of Callithea Farm, asked the board for additional buffering along the border of the property and Callithea Farm. “Our greatest concern is the degree to which it might encroach on the enjoyment at Callithea Farm,” he said.

The new houses, he said would be intrusive in an area which is currently rolling hills and forest. Tobin also questioned the proposed name of the project, Callithea Ridge, which he thought would be confusing to the general public.

Wallace asserted that there is an existing fence running along the property line and that the distance between the houses and the farm would provide ample buffering. “You’ve got over 400 feet of distance between the closest houses.

The planning board rejected the argument that the fence, a four-foot tall, wooden post-and-beam fence would act as a buffer and that the distance could be a reasonable buffer. They preferred the idea of something more substantial, such as a mound and tree plantings. “That’s something we normally request of developers,” said Commissioner John Robinson.

“This isn’t your typical property adjoining a typical park,” said Commissioner Meredith Wellington. “I’m very interested in a buffer that will completely buffer the horse farm.”

The board decided to require that the developer submit a landscape and buffer plan before going forward as a condition of approval.

The Board does not have jurisdiction over the name of a development.