An Ellicott City businessman's quest to build a home on an uninhabited Magothy River island suffered a setback earlier this month when a county official rejected his requests for zoning variances.

In a written decision, administrative hearing officer Stephen M. LeGendre said he was concerned about the environmental consequences if David Clickner is allowed to build a two-story, approximately 4,500-square-foot house on seven-acre Dobbins Island.

In particular, LeGendre cited concerns from opponents of the project that Clickner's home could harm environmentally sensitive "critical areas" designated near the shoreline. He said Clickner's proposal did not adequately address those concerns.

"In this case, the shortcomings are too great," LeGendre wrote of Clickner's plans.

The decision involves one of two controversial cases involving development on Magothy islands. At the same time Clickner has been pushing to have plans for his home approved, the county is suing a man who officials say built a house on neighboring Little Island without obtaining the proper permits. The county is seeking to raze the house.

In the Dobbins Island case, Clickner has until 30 days after LeGendre's July 14 decision to decide whether he will appeal to the county Board of Appeals, said his Annapolis-based attorney, Harry Blumenthal. Blumenthal said Clickner was still set on developing the island.

"He wants to build a house, and he may or may not revisit the plans and modify them" -- perhaps to make the planned house smaller, Blumenthal said.

Opposing Clickner has been the Magothy River Association, a group of area residents headed by Paul Spadaro. Spadaro said the group does not believe that any development on the island could avoid inflicting environmental damage, including erosion of its shore. The group contends that eroding banks could muddy the river and harm wildlife such as oysters.

"It's just a bad idea," Spadaro said of Clickner's plans. He said the group's ultimate aim is for the island -- where boaters have often tied up and had picnics on summer weekends -- to become a public park.

David Clickner on Dobbins Island, which he owns. He is still set on a home there, his attorney says, but area residents would rather see a public park.