Martin Day cringes every time he looks across the street at his grandmother's old home.
His automatic response is not prompted by the peeling paint or sagging door frame. Nor does Day have any painful childhood memories that cause him to flinch when he glances out the window at the family homestead.
A large, white sign posted to the right of the ramshackle house in Glen Burnie is the source of the 34-year-old's daily irritation.
The placard informs neighbors and passersby that the property owners, Alexander and Eldora Graboski, are seeking a zoning variance to build clustered town houses on the 1.38-acre site off Glen Oak Lane, an extremely narrow, short street between Lee's Oldsmobile and Maple Lane.
Preliminary plans call for razing Day's grandmother's house and developing seven clustered homes close to the back yards of the homes on Virginia Avenue.
Since the property is far less than the 10 acres required for clustered zoning, the Graboskis need a variance to develop seven condominium-style homes there.
They also must receive a special zoning exemption to build the proposed project in an R-5 district, said a spokeswoman for the county Planning and Zoning Office. R-5 zoning is designed for single-family homes, she said, but allows for converting houses into duplexes or building clustered town houses on larger properties.
Day and his neighbors are adamantly opposed to the Graboskis' proposed development. They fear traffic from seven town houses will jam the cramped lane and increase the risk of accidents. And they worry that construction will fill in a swale cutting across the property, leading to widespread drainage problems.
"We're afraid that it's going to end up flooding out our basements," said Day, who bought three-quarters of an acre from his uncle and built a house across the street from the site five years ago.
Day has spent the past weeks knocking on his neighbors' doors and collecting signatures on a petition opposing the zoning changes. More than 120 residents living on Glen Oak Lane and the surrounding streets signed the petition.
Fifty residents from the neighborhood that's tucked behind the commercial strip on Crain Highway also successfully lobbied the Glen Burnie Improvement Association last week for support.
"You cannot get out from Maple Lane even now," said Lois Gross, one of four neighbors who spoke to the civic association meeting and urged them to pass a resolution opposing the zoning variance and exemption. "We have a traffic problem as it exists now. Heaven help us if there's more traffic."
Armed with the petition and resolution from the civic association, Day and his neighbors intend to fight the requested zoning changes at a hearing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in County Council chambers.
Day's relatives have owned land off Glen Oak Lane for years, he said.
His grandparents, George and Silvia Eveson, raised six children in the house now owned and rented by the Graboskis. The property was auctioned off after his grandmother died a few years ago.
Eldora Graboski, a Nationwide Insurance agent, said she and her husband decided to develop clustered homes to offset high property taxes.
"Why have this grief with taxes?" she said. "We would either have to give the land away or auction it off. We thought cluster-type housing was the best solution because then we could have one roadway rather than all these hazardous driveways."
If the zoning board denies the variance, she said they will drop the clustered development and simply build federally subsidized homes for low-income families.
"If I can't go with a nice condo cluster, then I'm going to go in with single-families and go for Section 8," she said, referring to the federal housing program for low-income families.
The Graboskis have hired an Annapolis-based builder to construct the homes. They are prepared to promptly develop alternate plans if the zoning board rejects a clustered project.
Day said he and his neighbors would not oppose building one or two single-family houses on the property. But they object to "putting as many buildings as you can on a piece of land."
"We're not against new homes. We just want them to fit in with the present environment and keep the traffic influx down to a minimum," he said.