Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County; Shook, J.
Hammond, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Hammond, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
The zoning reclassification of land in rapidly growing Montgomery County which is challenged in this appeal was supported and opposed with equal vigor and earnestness before the County Council, the Circuit Court and this Court. The applicant for the rezoning prevailed before the Council and the lower court and will prevail here.
Since 1890 The Chevy Chase Land Company has owned a block of land (Block 11) with a frontage of 1,000 feet along the east side of Wisconsin Avenue and a depth of 250 feet to Belmont Street, between Montgomery Street to the south and Oliver Street to the north.
The tract has been zoned residential (R-60, for detached houses), as has the adjacent land, since zoning began in the
County in 1928, although it is apparent the company long has been holding the land for commercial development.*fn1 In late 1960 the Land Company leased Block 11 for twenty-five years, with rights to renewals, to Saks Fifth Avenue, a specialty department store company. Saks proposed to erect an attractive structure with off-street parking and appropriate landscaping and screening, if the required rezoning, to which the lease was subject, was granted.
The Land Company applied to the County Council to have 250 feet of its Wisconsin Avenue frontage in Block 11, with a depth of 200 feet, changed from its residential classification to C-2, which is general commercial. It proposed to utilize a customary and accepted technique of Montgomery County zoning by having only the area to be covered by the commercial building zoned commercial, with the adjacent land remaining residential, subject to a special exception for off-street parking being granted by the Board of Appeals, which can impose conditions as to ways of ingress and egress, screening and landscaping, all for the protection of the surrounding area and property owners.
The Technical Staff and the Planning Board of the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission recommended approval of the application (with a 10-foot setback), stating that the rezoning would be a logical extension of the extensive existing commercial development at Wisconsin Circle, based upon the premise that all of the block not rezoned commercial would be the subject of an application to the Board of Appeals for a special exception for off-street parking.
After a full hearing at which lay and expert witnesses appeared for the applicant and for the protestants (including the Town of Somerset and a number of aggrieved individual property owners), and presented conflicting opinions as to the
propriety of the rezoning and the effect on traffic and congestion in the streets, the County Council, by a vote of four to two, approved the rezoning, and on petition for reconsideration affirmed its action.
On appeal the Circuit Court found from the voluminous record that the finding of the County Council, sitting as a District Council, was fairly debatable and ...