FINKSBURG — When the trees are bare, Patricia Deming can see the tanks through awindow of her Deer Park Road home.
Four half-million gallon tanksoccupy the site where an oil company used to run a fuel-storage and transfer operation.
The business is idle now. The three-acre lot on Old Gamber Road is overgrown and the tanks are mostly empty. But James H. Kibler, the property owner, wants the parcel's zoning changed so it can be used again by a fuel company or some other business.
Many adjacent residents, however, say they aren't wild about having an industrial operation near homes. They also worry about the potential environmental threat of a fuel-storage business operating on land near the Liberty Reservoir.
Deming shares those apprehensions. But her greatest concern is more fundamental: Kibler's rezoning request, which was taken up by the county commissioners during a hearing on Thursday, runs counter to the Finksburg land use master plan completed in 1981.
"Naturally, anyone is going to say they don't want the property next to themto be converted to industrial land," she said. "But we would like tosee the growth remain inside the scheduled growth area. That's why we have the (master) plan.
"What was the point if we're going to have the situation where we have spot changes?"
Of the 45 people whopacked the hearing room Thursday, most were neighbors who live near Kibler's property and who oppose the rezoning request.
For Kibler,owner of Kibler Construction Co. Inc., the hearing was the latest step on a long road to obtaining a change to an industrial zoning designation.
The Westminster resident bought a 9.7-acre property -- which includes the three-acre parcel -- in 1988 for $250,000 from Sohio Oil Co. Fuel-storage and transfer operations had been under way on the smaller tract since 1950.
When the Finksburg master plan was drafted, the three-acre site was granted a non-conforming use designation, allowing the business to continue. The other 6.7 acres were zoned "conservation," while adjacent areas were tabbed residential and business.
Wanting to relocate his building business at the site, Kibler asked the county Board of Zoning Appeals in 1988 to revise the non-conforming use to allow for construction equipment storage.
To hissurprise, Kibler learned that after the fuel operations ceased for six months, the non-conforming use designation automatically expired, in accordance with county zoning law. The board denied his request and the land's zoning reverted to conservation.
Kibler told the commissioners Thursday that no one told him when he acquired the property, and, thus, he didn't know he had to apply for a continuation of thenon-conforming use.
"I never realized it would be a problem," he said.
A 1989 appeal of the board's ruling failed in Circuit Court,so Kibler is trying to get the land rezoned "Restricted Industrial" instead.
Kibler eventually found another place to relocate his construction business and now wants the rezoning so he can sell or leasethe Old Gamber Road property to a fuel company or other business.
The county planning commission previously recommended denial of the request, saying it would conflict with the intent of the master plan.
After more than two hours of testimony Thursday, the commissioners stopped the hearing and scheduled it to resume at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21.