The legal wrangle over the Woodbine Gliderport went from the back burner of the county's consciousness to the front doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990.
Although the dispute began eight years ago, the operators of Bay Soaring Inc. and Woodbine-area residents opposed to the glider-ride business had been silent for some time.
That changed in July, when Carroll's County Commissioners and the residents petitioned the nation's highest court to hear the case of a county zoning board decision limiting flight traffic at the small, grassy airstrip.
The residents asked the Supreme Court to reconsider an April decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. The state court said that a lower court erred in May 1989 when it ruled that a local government can impose airway restrictions on a small airport's zoning permit.
But in early October, the Supreme Court said it would not entertain an appeal, prompting cheers from the glider-ride camp and jeers from the residents group.
"It's not a surprise to me that they denied it," said David K. Bowersox, an attorney with Dulaney, Parker & Scott, a Westminster law firm representing the airstrip and Bay Soaring.
"It's disappointing," said John T. Willis, an attorney with the Baltimore law firm Weinberg and Green, which represents the residents and the commissioners. "But it's not over."
This is certain. The dispute, already tangled after eight years of legal and administrative wrangling, promises to get more convoluted before a resolution is reached.
The Supreme Court denial puts the case back to the Carroll County Zoning Board, where the difficulty sprang years ago.
The board is expected to pick up the case again sometime in 1991, although no date for a new hearing has been scheduled, said County Attorney Charles W. "Chuck" Thompson Jr.
In 1972, the county zoning board issued a permit to Robert E. Harrison, the owner of the 172-acre farm where the glider business is located, to operate an airstrip.
Bay Soaring began operating at Harrison's farm in 1981. After numerous residents complained about noise and safety hazards, the zoning board revoked the permit and issued another, this one with conditions regulating flight paths, air traffic and hours of operation at the airstrip.
Bay Soaring appealed to Circuit Court, claiming that a county zoning board had no business regulating the airways.