Md. Renaissance Festival denied zoning needed for move to Lothian

An Anne Arundel County hearing officer has denied zoning approvals requested by the Maryland Renaissance Festival to move from Crownsville to Lothian.

Festival organizers had sought approval for a zoning exception required for such festivals, and also had asked for variances related to traffic and road access.

Administrative Hearing Officer Douglas Clark Hollmann wrote in his decision that granting the variances to key requirements would "effectively disembowel" rules governing where such festivals can be located in Arundel.

The festival has been searching for a new location since growing to its limit at its present 130-acre home in Crownsville. The festival attracts about 300,000 visitors each fall who explore the replica of an English village under the reign of King Henry VIII.

Homeowners surrounding the proposed 238-acre Lothian location testified at a hearing last week that the festival would generate noise and traffic that would burden their quiet, rural community. The property is currently a farm.

Jules Smith, president and general manager of the festival, said the hearing officer's decision wasn't unexpected. He has 30 days to appeal the decision to the county's Board of Appeals but hasn't decided whether he will do so.

"We'll be making a decision on what's best for the festival," he said.

The festival still has a long-term lease at Crownsville, and Smith is planning for the 2014 season there, which is scheduled to open Aug. 23 and run weekends through Oct. 19.

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