It's been a long and winding road for Louis Waidner -- from aggrieved citizen to aide to the Baltimore County executive to defendant in a suit by the jurisdiction that employs him.
Long active in their northeast county neighborhood association, Waidner and his wife, Phyllis, have been fighting the county and the State Highway Administration for three years.
The dispute, emblematic of changes in the growing Perry Hall-White Marsh area, is over the proposed extension of a road that will take part of their property in the 4100 block of Whittlesey Ave. off Belair Road.
The state plans to begin widening Belair Road this fall from four to six lanes to ease congestion. The county, meanwhile, wants to build a curvy extension of Ridgely's Choice Drive between Belair Road and a new 343-house development behind the Waidners' house called Ridgely's Choice.
The county is offering the couple $3,920 for a large wedge of their front yard and easements. The project also would take a rented house next door.
The Waidners have fought the county, fearing that both road projects would leave theirs as the only house on the block, with traffic on two sides and a housing development behind, not to mention chronic basement flooding that they blame on the new construction.
Years of legal sparring over the matter moved Louis Waidner to get involved in local politics.
"When something happens to you personally, you start to question things, 'Hey, what's going on here?' " said Waidner, 54. "It's interesting how things evolve."
His experience through the long affair has shown him that "people can change things," he said.
"It's an exciting feeling working with people now," he said of his new job as a staff aide to County Executive Roger Hayden, a position in which he specializes in planning and zoning problems.
Originally active in helping county Councilman Vincent Gardina, D-5th, mount a grass-roots campaign to defeat a longtime incumbent in last September's Democratic primary, Waidner switched allegiances to Hayden, a Republican, in the general election.
At the time, Waidner was unhappy that Gardina decided to run on the general election ticket headed by incumbent Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen. Waidner and some neighbors blamed Rasmussen for crowded schools and congested traffic in the White Marsh-Perry Hall area.
When Hayden won a stunning upset in November, Waidner traded in his status as an unemployed furniture salesman for a $38,000-a-year staff job with Hayden, which he started in December. He had earlier spent 18 years with the Head sports equipment company until the firm was sold.
Meanwhile, the road dispute ground forward. The county filed a condemnation suit against Waidner and his wife Jan. 10.
For the couple, all is not lost. Waidner says his lawyer is still trying to negotiate a deal with the county. Also, the Belair Road project may be delayed if the state's money woes continue.
It might be possible for the Waidners to rezone and sell their lot together with the one next door, which is zoned for office development, to a commercial builder for enough money to buy a home elsewhere.
Said one highway engineer familiar with the dispute, "Residential houses along Belair Road are dinosaurs now."