Car repair shop owner crashes council meeting Zoning threatens his home business CENTRAL COUNTY -- Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

April 15, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

A citizen infiltrated the Greater Severna Park Council meeting Tuesday night.

Joseph Langlois, a resident seeking a zoning reclassification necessary for his Ritchie Highway auto repair shop to remain in business, had asked the council for a chance to present his case, hoping to gain their support.

The executive board declined to grant him the opportunity. Mr. ++ Langlois showed up anyway.

His moment came after heated discussion among council members about whether they agreed with the board, which opposes Mr. Langlois' zoning change.

In a vote to see if the membership supported the board, as well as the council's own vote last month against Mr. Langlois' zoning request, delegates split 12 to 12, with 9 abstentions.

Said one delegate: "I think the guy isn't hurting anything and ought to be allowed to make a living."

Another delegate pointed out that State Farm Insurance has an inspection station next to Mr. Langlois; a garden center and home insurance business are across the street and the Psychic Healer and several mini-malls are up the block.

Others, including Al Johnston, the council's legislative chairman, insisted Mr. Langlois' business was out of line.

"He agreed his business was illegal from day one," said Mr. Johnston, noting that county zoning policy requires someone who seeks a zoning change to "show change in the character of the neighborhood" since the original zoning.

Mr. Langlois' property is zoned low-density residential. He has asked for a commercial designation to continue the Volkswagen repair shop he's had on the site for more than 10 years.

Delegate Kathryn Beverly burst out: "Route 2 is a residential neighborhood? Would you live there? It's not a neighborhood. It's a little strip on Route 2."

Said Mr. Johnston: "He's doing [auto repair] as a business there, and that's wrong." He added that Mr. Langlois had given "misinformation" to the press.

In any case, Mr. Johnston concluded triumphantly, "the board decided not to permit him to speak. It's a fait accompli. He's not here."

At this, a quiet voice protested: "I am here."

It was Mr. Langlois himself, in their midst. The room went silent.

Just before the council adjourned at 11 p.m., Mr. Langlois was given permission to speak.

He told the council he has lived in Severna Park for 15 years. He at first rented a shop in Pasadena, but so many cars were vandalized that he built a shop next to his home for security. He's maintained Volkswagens for more than 280 residents of Severna Park, Arnold and Millersville, he said.

The county has issued him a license for his home business every year since 1982, and he's paid business taxes. But his 1987 application for a commercial zoning was denied because, the county said, the "property was isolated from other commercial uses."

Now the county says Mr. Langlois must obtain rezoning or move the business out of his large tan garage. His hearing is April 29.

Mr. Langlois and his wife Michelle run the business, along with three local employees. The couple has three young children.

"I never thought there would be a zoning law for Ritchie Highway," says Mr. Langlois. When the county informed him in 1987 that he was in violation, he says he was so busy running the business he didn't have time to look for a place to move.

None of his neighbors have complained, says Mr. Langlois. He insists the zoning "doesn't make sense", since his street already has numerous businesses.

Although an attorney has told Mr. Langlois it would be impossible to get the zoning changed, he has persisted. "I feel so strongly this shouldn't be zoned residential, I'm going forward with it," he says.

He's obtained more than 300 customers' signatures on a petition, and customers have also sent letters to the council.

One Manhattan Beach resident, Karl Neidhardt, wrote to the BTC council: "[Mr. Langlois] represents what I think we need more of, a Ma and Pa operation . . . that does quality work at reasonable prices."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.