Stephen Stankiewicz can look out the front window of his house on First Avenue in northeast Baltimore County and gaze at some 10 acres of wooded land.
But he fears the view will be transformed from serene woods to bustling parking lot if the nearby Griffith Chrysler Plymouth dealership is allowed to expand its operation in the 9200 block of Harford Road.
Stankiewicz claims that the nice view wouldn't be the only thing lost. He and his neighbors worry that the expansion would hurt the quality of local life and cause property values to plummet.
About 20 area residents -- including the entire General Assembly delegation for the 8th District -- testified against the planned expansion at a hearing yesterday in Towson before county Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt.
The purpose of the four-hour meeting was to hear Griffith's requests for zoning variances for a parking lot that it already has built and for a 187-space car-storage lot it proposes to build where the woods stand.
Griffith wants to build the storage lot smaller than the county would normally require and make it of crushed stone instead of paving it and painting stripes for spaces, said company attorney Robert Cannon.
The dealership is seeking the same variances for the parking lot at its repair shop. That lot also is made of crushed stone.
Residents fear the expansion would add more traffic to an already congested area.
The dealership is several blocks south of the heavily traveled intersection of Joppa and Harford roads, which already is so congested that it is considered a failed intersection by highway officials.
Griffith contends that traffic would not be a problem. The company commissioned a study which found that the expansion's impact on local traffic would be negligible.
Residents said the dealership and its repair shop already cause excessive noise, dust, trash and lighting and that security lighting for the new lot would make things worse. Del. Joseph Bartenfelder, D-8th, said some residents complain that they can sit in their homes at night and read by the light currently given off by the dealership.
Much of the noise and dust, residents said, has come from cars and trucks driving over the stone surface of the repair shop's parking lot. They claimed that dirt and silt from the lot has polluted nearby streams that ultimately feed into Chesapeake Bay.
"We're trying to save the bay . . . and still there's all this going on," said Sam Long, a resident of Second Avenue. Residents also said that Griffith mechanics have test-driven cars at high speeds through local streets.
In his closing argument, Mr. Cannon said, "The Griffiths . . . have left the wooded area in pristine condition for the 25 years they've owned it. They weren't going to touch it . . . but now they need it."
"Never did I see a project so clearly mis-zoned and inappropriate for an area," countered Alfred W. Redmer, R-8th, another of the legislators who testified. "This proposal would have tremendous negative impact. ."
Mr. Schmidt said he will make a ruling on Griffith's requests within two weeks.