Hearings continued last week regarding a proposed Chabad synagogue for Russian-speaking Jews on Stevenson Road, with the focus on a petition residents signed in opposition and Baltimore County zoning code.
Since late June, Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen has heard arguments from attorneys representing those who live in the neighborhood surrounding the proposed site of the synagogue in the 8400 block of Stevenson Road as well as arguments from the defense and expert witnesses. The issues in question are whether the plans have sufficient RTAs — residential transition areas — which are required to blend the building in with its surroundings and if plans are compatible with a nearly 10-year-old development plan for the property.
Rabbi Velvel Belinsky aims to build a permanent home for his Ariel Jewish Center and Synagogue. The building would have a 4,000-square-foot footprint and an 88-seat sanctuary.
At the fifth hearing, held Wednesday, Oct. 14, nearby neighbor Margaret Presley-Stein spoke about petitions opposing the synagogue development. Signatures collected totaled 638 residents from 426 residences, 394 residences of which are located within the boundaries of Greenspring Valley Road and I-695.
A sixth hearing took place two days later.
A brochure was available to signatories detailing the opposition and the neighbors’ concern over environmental impact, traffic, pedestrian safety and the synagogue’s nonresidential nature. Presley-Stein — wife of Del. Dana Stein, who cleared his involved in the opposition with the state legislature ethics adviser — said a few people declined to sign the petition.
Christopher Jakubiak, an urban planner and president at Jakubiak & Associates, Inc., testified that he doesn’t believe Belinsky’s plan has proper RTA compliance and spoke about several other things that he felt were out of character with the original plan and neighborhood, including traffic impacts and possible light posts in the parking lot.
Previous hearings have included cross-examinations of the rabbi, emotional testimony from residents and testimony from experts in a variety of areas, including planning, zoning code, traffic and landscape architecture.
At the second hearing in August, the defense called land-use and zoning expert Timothy Kotroco, who cited a zoning code that said Belinsky’s plans didn’t have to be compatible with the property’s original plan due to how the property was classified by a judge in 2006 — essentially dismantling one case against the proposal, depending on how Beverungen interprets the code.
The next hearing has yet to be scheduled as of press time.