Alan Triplett admits that his backyard welding business "looks a little shabby." But not shabby enough, he says, to warrant an 8-foot stockade and barbed-wire privacy fence across his driveway.
The Lynnview Terrace Limited Partnership plans to erect the fence on a strip of land that runs along the northern edge of Triplett's 3/4-acre property at the corner of Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and Hillview Drive. Lynn Hill Garden Apartments, owned by the partnership, sit across Hillview Drive from Triplett.
Triplett says his driveway and three-car garage, from which he runs Triplett Welding and Repair, have faced Hillview Drive for 40 years. The fence would cut off both.
"I'll be totally landlocked," said Triplett, 34, who inherited the property from his late father, Paul, several years ago. "(The strip) is their land, but it's our right-of-way. Seeing that we've been using it for 40 years, it should be ours."
The county Department of Inspections and Permits issued Lynnview a permit Sept. 16 for a 210-foot-long fence. Contractors started building the fence Friday, putting in 11 8-foot-tall posts.
The posts were gone Saturday morning -- apparently stolen -- but a spokesmanfor Lynnview's management company said work on the fence would resume as soon as possible.
"We have a very sensitive but unfortunate situation here," said a spokesman for Commercial Management Co. of Silver Spring, which manages the apartments for Lynnview. The spokesman refused to give his name.
"Despite months of trying to work with (Triplett), we have come down to the fact that there's no way but to protect the rights of the (apartment) property," the spokesman said.
Apartment residents have complained about trespassing by Triplett and his customers, rats coming over from the Triplett property, and being chased by Triplett's pit bull terrier, said the spokesman.
He also said Lynnview fears that, since the Triplett family has used the13-foot strip bordering the edge of the lot for many years, Triplettwill claim ownership of the strip unless a physical barrier is erected. "He has already written letters (to Lynnview) claiming that," thespokesman said -- a statement Triplett denies.
The apartment owners aren't the only ones exasperated by the Triplett property. Anne Arundel zoning officials say Triplett and his father have violated zoning laws repeatedly over the years. The county currently is suing Triplett to clean up the property.
Triplett has permission to run a welding operation as a legal non-conforming use in a residential area, "but he has gone beyond the scope of what is recognized as a welding operation," said Richard Josephson, acting county zoning administrator. "(Paul Triplett) was told to clean up years ago, which he did. Butrecently the place has become another big mess. The county is looking at it as a junkyard."
Said Triplett, "The shop does look a little shabby. I don't make a lot of money. I did clean up some. It just gets so messy. I am trying to run a business, not a beauty parlor."
Triplett said his family has been trying to sell the property for more than a year to help pay expenses for his mother, who is institutionalized with Alzheimer's disease. He lives in the two-story house with a friend and rents the upstairs to a woman and her three children.
He has a pit bull, "but she's just about dying. She can't chase anybody." As for the rats, Triplett suspects they're coming from a nearby convenience store. "I see them running across the street all the time," he said.
Don Woodrow, chief of the permits division of the Department of Inspections and Permits, called the fence issue "unusual" and said he would look into it.
Josephson said zoning officials would not object to the fence as long as Triplett was not denied access to his property. In this case, Josephson said, he could build a driveway off of Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.
"But I wouldn't be able to get into my garage," Triplett complained. To reach his garage, such a driveway would have to extend in back of and around his home. At the very least, he said, he ought to be given time to clean out his garage and move his equipment before the fence goes up.
The Commercial Management spokesman said Lynnview repeatedly has asked Triplett to substantiate his claim that he owns a the right-of-way by producing an easement or some other proof. He never has, the spokesman said.
Triplett has 30 days from the date the permit was issued to object by filing with the county Board of Appeals. He says he will appeal.
Meanwhile, if the fence goes up? "It's called 'self-help,' " Triplett said. "A lawyer advised me that whatever they put up, I shouldtake down."
He said he did not, however, remove the posts that were put in Friday.