Outraged by what he considers a bureaucratic mistake, a 59-year-old grandfather has taken to marching with a picket sign at one of Glen Burnie's busiest intersections.
Alfred Lucarelli says it's the principle of the thing. But he has to admit he's also just plain mad.
A longtime resident of Margate and vice president of the civic association, Lucarelli was upset to learn that two lawyers intend to build a small office and apartment building at the corner of Furnace Branch Road and Margate Drive.
The partners in the venture, Ron Silkworth and Philip Scheibe, received a variance in January to develop a4,000-square-foot building with two more apartments than the zoning permits. They wanted to build offices on the first floor and four apartments on the second floor, instead of the two allowed under the zoning code.
A couple of months later, they requested an appeal because they couldn't meet a condition set by Roger C. Wilcox, the county's zoning hearing officer. The partners had failed to obtain a cooperative parking agreement with the next-door neighbor. Silkworth, an attorney in Glen Burnie, said he and his partner were hampered by a technicality -- the agreement was different than required by the county'szoning code.
It was a routine appeal, one of the many minor zoning issues that take a couple of months and some paperwork to resolve. But it made Lucarelli fighting mad.
"They're not legally allowed to put up four apartments," he said. "I don't see why they should havemore than they are supposed to with the zoning."
Lucarelli is even more frustrated by the system. He says that neighbors living close to the planned apartment building were not notified of the first zoning hearing. Nor was the Margate Improvement Association, since its name was accidentally deleted from a county list.
By the time Lucarelli learned of the development, the zoning officer already had noted that "no one from the neighborhood testified in opposition."
A number of neighbors are set to oppose the development this time, Lucarelli claims. But Silkworth said he doubts many Margate residents will testify at the appeal, scheduled for July 15 at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.
"Who's this fellow supposed to be speaking for?" he said. "There's no community opposition to this."
Silkworth, who described the project as "something that's going to do nothing but improvethe neighborhood," said he's baffled by Lucarelli's protest. Nobody appears to have joined the solitary picket, he pointed out.
Lucarelli began picketing the corner lot when construction workers arrived last month. He and some neighbors, who fear the additional apartmentswill increase traffic congestion at the entrance to Margate, plannedto testify at the appeal, originally scheduled for April 15.
The hearing was postponed three months. But the partners obtained a permit to start construction because, except for the two apartments in dispute, the building is permitted.
Lucarelli wasn't going to take that decision lying down. He immediately went out and bought some cardboard at the Office Depot for a picket sign.
It's a backyard dispute that means a lot to the former truck driver and grandfather of three. He hasn't stopped the construction, but he has some neighbors signing a petition. He also has got the civic association back on the county's roster of community groups.
Passers-by have stopped to stareor ask about his sign urging an immediate halt to construction. He tells them, "As far as I'm concerned, this is being built illegally."
And he's determined to let Glen Burnie know exactly what he thinks.