Progress Versus Junk HOWARD COUNTY

December 18, 1992

No doubt the person who filed an anonymous complaint against junkyard owners Ellis and George Wise of Clarksville is deriving some sort of sick satisfaction from what he or she set in motion recently.

The Wises have been operating a junkyard on 15 acres on Hall Shop Road for four or five decades. Because of the complaint, they are being forced to appear before the Howard County Planning Board and Board of Appeals to prove they have been in existence since before the area was zoned residential. In the process, they could pay close to $5,000 in legal fees, money Mr. Wise says he does not have.

The Wises, unfortunately for them, have bumped up against the darker side of progress.

Within the last decade alone, the area around their junkyard has been dotted by high-priced homes. Some of the newest neighbors may lack an appreciation for the junked cars which are strewn about the Wises' contiguous properties and which were there long before the homes sprouted up.

Speculation about who may have filed an anonymous complaint might produce some fascinating possibilities. If not a neighboring homeowner, how about an over-zealous land speculator who thinks by hassling Wise he can convince him to sell his property?

It really shouldn't matter, though. Whoever filed the complaint is guilty of nothing short of harassment. It's an ugly form of cowardice that would motivate such an attack.

Hopefully, the Wises will win approval for non-conforming use of their properties.

They have already collected more than 200 signatures of neighbors attesting to the junkyard's existence since the 1940s. They've also gotten County Councilman C. Vernon Gray on their side.

Mr. Gray hopes to have the Wises' property "grandfathered" when officials rezone the eastern part of Howard County, thus eliminating the need for the Wises to pay costly legal and filing fees.

That seems like the right approach. Anything to avoid foisting this kind of hardship on a county property owner makes good sense. It won't stop the more mean-spirited among us from taking the coward's way out by filing an anonymous complaint. It would, however, take away some of the satisfaction that person is feeling.

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