A salvage yard operator, seeking permission to open a car dismantling and parts recycling plant in Marley Neck, sought to counter fears that such a facility would be a nuisance and an eyesore.
Michael J.Loher, owner of Mike's Auto Parts in Hanover, asked the county Boardof Appeals yesterday to approve a special zoning exception he needs to build and operate the plant on 3.4 acres in the 6600 block of FortSmallwood Road.
Loher said the new plant would be vastly different from his 10-year-old salvage operation at Dorsey and Ridge roads, which is litteredwith junked cars and automotive parts.
"You won't see the eyesoreyou see now," Loher said.
A county hearing officer denied Loher'srequest for a special exception last fall, after neighbors and environmental activists challenged the need for Loher's plant in an area already inundated with salvage operations. The neighbors complained that the facility would become a "junkyard."
During yesterday's four-hour hearing at the Arundel Center in Annapolis, Charles Brenton, Loher's architect, said a car recycling plant would be "benign" compared with other uses permitted on the property, zoned for heavy industrial use. Those other uses include incinerators, asphalt plants and breweries, Brenton said.
Unlike his salvage yard, Loher said the new facility will include an 8,384-square-foot warehouse where the cars will be dismantled, oil and other fluids recycled and reusable parts salvaged.
Loher said he will still need to stock an inventory of cars to dismantle and the cars' shells until they can be shipped to metal recycling plant. But, he said, he will limit the number to 100, store them only behind his warehouse and shield them from view with trees and shrubbery.
About 30 Marley Neck and Solley residents turnedout to register their opposition, but time ran out. The hearing continues 2 p.m. Feb. 26.
The hearing started sourly for several residents who wrote letters opposing the facility directly to the board. Contacting board members before the hearing is not only inappropriate but a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail or a $1,000fine, said Chairwoman Barbara M. Hale.
Two of the seven board members -- Joseph A. Johnson and John W. Boring -- said they had conflicts of interest in the case and excused themselves. Johnson said he isa friend of Loher's landlord and has received "favors" at Mike's Auto Parts.
Afterward, Cheryl Snyder, president of the Solley Civic Association, said residents do not believe Loher will operate the plant as he proposed and do not trust the county to enforce its zoning laws.
"Time and time again, we get these pretty pictures painted forus, but when they move in they don't look a thing like they were supposed to," Snyder said.
"We're afraid it's going to look like a junkyard when it's finished."