After sitting through hours of testimony during two hearings on a businessman's request for an industrial rezoning in Finksburg, residents who opposed the move got the chance to speak yesterday.
And speak they did.
"If this should pass, our lives would never be the same," said Denise Duvall, who runs a horse farm at her Old Gamber Road home next to the three-acre site where a fuel storage and transportation business operated for decades.
"This is part of my back yard," said Flag Meadow Court resident Sandra Greene of a stream that runs from the idle fuel site across her property. "This is where my children play. I'd be an irresponsible parent . . . to allow my children to play in their own back yard."
And Finksburg resident Alan Brothers said, "We're talking about a way of life."
The residents spoke against a request by property owner James H. Kibler to change the parcel's zoningfrom conservation to industrial during a three-hour hearing before the commissioners.
Kibler, owner of Kibler Construction Co. Inc., said he wants to revive the fuel business and operate it himself or sell it to a fuel company. The Westminster resident bought 9.7 acres --which includes the three-acre parcel -- in 1988 for $250,000. Fuel-storage and transfer operations had been under way on the smaller tract since 1950.
When the Finksburg master plan was adopted in 1981, the three-acre site was granted a non-conforming use designation, allowing the fuel business to continue. The other 6.7 acres were zoned conservation, which prohibited industrial uses.
Kibler asked the county Board of Zoning Appeals in 1988 to revise the non-conforming useto allow for relocation of his construction business. But Kibler learned that when 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 zoning reverted to conservation.
A 1989 appeal of the board's ruling failed in Circuit Court, so Kibler is trying to get the land rezoned industrial. The county planning commission previously recommended denial of therequest, saying it would conflict with the intent of the master plan.
Kibler previously told the commissioners he was not told he needed to apply for a continuation of the non-conforming use after he bought the land.
That explanation didn't sway residents who testifiedyesterday.
"I'm a businessman, and when I make a mistake I acceptthe losses," said Brothers, who works for an electronic firm.
Said Jack Devlin, a business consultant and Gamber Road resident, "Mr. Kibler made a poor business decision -- he didn't do his homework. Is that my fault? Is that any of the neighbors' fault? No, it isn't."
Many residents said they had no complaints when other companies -- including Sohio Oil Co. -- ran the fuel operation. But they worry rezoning would open the door to other industrial uses.
Kibler said twooil companies -- Primary Oil & Energy Co. and Stewart Oil Co. -- areinterested in the site. His attorney, Charles O. Fisher Sr., told the commissioners Kibler would limit use under rezoning to fuel storageand transportation.
The commissioners said the case record will be open 10 days, with a vote to follow.