Pasadena community activists say they're tired of living in "the least desirable looking area of the county" and are calling for help from the county zoning office.
"We're just concerned with the appearance of the Pasadena area. There seems to be a concentration of zoningviolations and we wantto make sure they are addressed," said David Williams, president of the Greater Pasadena Council.
It is a preponderance of mixed commercial and residential buildings, junk yards, and unpermitted signs, Williams says, that need to becorrected by better zoning enforcement.
The chief of the county'sland use enforcement division, invited to explain the county's zoning laws and complaint process at Thursday's monthly GPC meeting, said the problems in the Pasadena area can be traced to the county's quirky zoning laws and the fact that his zoning enforcement team is overwhelmed.
"I have eight enforcement officers with some 400 square miles of county to enforce all zoning in. Divide eight into 400 and you have each one covering a hell of a lot of area. We will only enforce by complaint, primarily because we don't have the manpower to do more," said Richard Gauch. "I tell you this so you can understand you're not going to have total enforcement of the zoning code, ever."
Gauch said his office has things "under control" despite its size, with "about 300" active cases in Pasadena involving all kinds of violations of the landscaping, billboard, buffer zone and commercial zoning laws. The largest number of violations, he said, involve commercial vehicles parked in residential areas.
The main reason Pasadena looks like it has more violations than other areas of the county, he suggested, is because many of the businesses pre-date the passage of the county's first of zoning laws in 1952 and the county government has never moved to reign in old non-conforming land uses.
"Anne Arundel County is the only county in the country where non-conforming uses arelegally instituted into the zoning code. All it does is make the places look like hell," Gauch said. He said he has studied the zoning codes of 500 different jurisdictions across the country and Anne Arundel is the only one that allows non-conforming uses to remain with the land even when the property changes hands.
Not everybody at the meeting was satisfied with Gauch's explanations, though.
"Nobody in this room has had more experience with you and your division in the past four years and nobody is more frustrated," said Tom Hemmeter of Bayside Beach, who has been at loggerheads with the owners of the Geisler Point Marina over whether cranes, barges, tugboats, and other debris can be stored on his property.
The zoning enforcement divisionhas cited Geisler Point for various violations but some of the debris remains.
"There's no excuse, but they (zoning violations) exist," Gauch responded, noting that the department is required to grant extensions to businesses to allow them to voluntarily comply with the zoning code.
Williams was not encouraged with the presentation.
"The process of enforcement seems very lengthy. (Gauch) seems like a nice enough fellow, but his presentation didn't exactly fill us with warm fuzzies that anything's actually going to be done," he said.
Williams said he sees "a good amount of room for improvement in the county's zoning laws."
The GPC has given Gauch a list of six zoningviolations along the Mountain Road corridor, Williams said he would reserve judgment on the zoning enforcement agency until he sees how well they resolve those problems.