When the Wells McComas Citizens Improvement Association began its efforts to shut down an illegal junkyard in the North Point community of eastern Baltimore County, Lyndon B. Johnson was president.
Twenty-seven years later, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge may have finally put an end to the dispute when he ordered the owner to clean up the mess and close the junkyard.
The ruling of Judge James T. Smith Jr., rendered last week, was released yesterday. In his order, he gave Oscar Meyers, the junkyard's owner, 30 days to remove all the old cars, trucks and other rusting pieces of junk from his property in the 3800 block of North Point Blvd.
"Right now, he's illegal and he's got to clean up within 30 days," Timothy M. Kotroco, an assistant county attorney, said of Meyers. Kotroco has worked on the case for the past 2 1/2 years.
Meyers, reached at home yesterday, said he would not appeal the decision and would begin cleaning up immediately. But he continued to maintain that his junkyard existed prior to zoning regulations and, therefore, should be a legal, non-conforming use under a grandfather clause.
"We were there before the law was passed," Meyers said. "We have the grandfather clause."
But Judge Smith's order, which if not adhered to could mean jail for Meyers, seems to have persuaded Meyers to clean up the junkyard.
"That's not going to bother us at all," he said. "The fact is that we were going to do it [clean up] anyway."
Meyers' tune, then, has changed considerably. He had successfully appealed other orders to close the junkyard.
In fact, his ability to stay open despite the efforts of several zoning commissioners and assistant county attorneys to shut him down is legendary among county zoning officials.
In the late 1970s, then Zoning Commissioner S. Eric DiNenna signed an order demanding that Meyers cease operating a junkyard and clean up. But he never did.
In the mid-1980s, the case was reopened and Meyers hired DiNenna, then and now in private practice, as his attorney. The case against him was delayed and postponed numerous times. Then it was dismissed in 1987 when the county failed to have a representative appear at a District Court hearing.
District Court Judge A. Gordon Boone Jr. reopened the case in 1989, after a detailed story on the dispute appeared in The Evening Sun. Last year, Judge Boone ordered Meyers to clean up the junkyard but the owner appealed the decision to Circuit Court.
In his eight-page decision, Smith dismissed DiNenna's argument that Meyers' junkyard existed prior to Jan. 2, 1945, when zoning regulations first became law.
Smith said he found the testimony of a local resident, Roland Miskimon, a retired plumber, to be "most persuasive."
Miskimon, who worked in the area in the mid-1940s, testified at the Circuit Court hearing last month that there were some junk cars on nearby property, but it wasn't a junkyard and it wasn't the same land where the current junkyard is. Plats and other land records were introduced as evidence.
Meyers' brother, William, had testified that the junkyard was there prior to 1945.
Miskimon, who is a member of the Wells McComas Citizens Improvement Association, was happy the long ordeal is over.
"This is a very, very good thing. This is just great news," Miskimon said.