HAMPSTEAD — So much for the theory of political clout.
The Carroll Board of Zoning Appeals has denied a request submitted by Jesse L. Gouge, husband of County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, to permit the storage and sale of mulch on the couple's Lees Mill Road property.
About 10 neighbors objected to the request at a hearing last month, saying the mulch pile had expanded and become an eyesore.
They expressed concern that the operation would increase traffic, produce noise and harm the environment.
Seventy-nine people signed a petition opposing the request.
In a decision released Friday afternoon,the Zoning Appeals Board said that traffic and other activities associated with a garden supply center "would not be compatible with the residential development of the community and would tend to depreciate" surrounding property values.
Jesse Gouge, who has conducted business from the property for about three years, requested "conditional use" approval -- a zoning exception -- to continue the small-scale operation legally.
The ruling said he filed the application "after discovering that the business required authorization" from the board.
Stanley C. Fong, a Blue Grass Lane resident and spokesman of a citizens group opposing the request, commended the decision.
"The Board of Zoning Appeals was very responsive to our stand against it," hesaid.
He criticized the commissioner for not recognizing that a zoning violation had been taking place on her property and for allowing the operation to continue after the application was filed.
"She's an elected leader," he said. "She's supposed to carry out the wishes of citizens. She should place her rights second to her responsibility.
"As a high-ranking official, she should have quit (the mulch operation) on her own."
The Gouges could not be reached for commentFriday night.
Jesse Gouge, who retired from the mulch business after about 28 years, testified he had begun keeping a small mulch pileon the property for the family's use.
The pile grew as former customers began coming to pick up loads.
The board ruled that a garden supply center would have more of an adverse effect at the Gouges' property than elsewhere in the agricultural district.
The area surrounding the site has become more residential than agricultural in character, the decision said.