Produce stand weathers rival's zoning challenge BALTIMORE COUNTY

October 30, 1992|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

Green Spring Valley residents can expect a ready supply of sweet corn, tomatoes and pumpkins next year from the popular farm stand at Greenspring Avenue and Hillside Road.

Joan McMahon, owner of Joan's Produce, has survived a zoning challenge and won the right to stay at the spot she has occupied, summer and autumn, for 16 years.

Last week, Baltimore County Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt granted Mrs. McMahon the permit she needed to remain open, rejecting a challenge by the owner of a rival stand 1 1/2 miles away at the Stevenson Shopping Center.

The competitor, Joel Koman of Owings Mills, said after an Oct. 5 hearing that Mrs. McMahon's stand was hurting his business, but that he filed his challenge only to ensure her compliance with the county's rules for operating a farm stand in a non-commercial zone.

"We did what any other legitimate business would have done," said Mr. Koman's attorney, Lloyd D. Lurie.

In his decision, Mr. Schmidt said the matter boiled down to whether Mrs. McMahon, who owns a farm near Pocomoke City, actually grows 50 percent of the produce she sells, as required by a county law passed last winter. Hers was the first case under the new law.

Mrs. McMahon argued she grows 52 percent of what she sells but could offer little to document that except a chart and an account of her planting schedule. Members of the county's Agricultural Land Preservation Board concluded, based on their "innate experience" and a cursory inspection of her farm, that Mrs. McMahon probably could not produce as much as she said.

Mr. Schmidt, however, found that the board's innate experience "is not a substitute for the direct evidence presented by [Mrs. McMahon]. . . . I find Mrs. McMahon's testimony both uncontradicted and credible."

"It was a long, tough battle," Mrs. McMahon said of the decision. "I couldn't have done it without my customers." Patrons testified for her and gave $1,700 for legal costs.

Mr. Lurie said his client was not planning to appeal.

"We are confident the zoning commissioner enforced the rules and regulations as written to the best of his ability," he said.

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