Balancing Residences and Business HOWARD COUNTY

September 07, 1993

Edward Friedman may not be the friendliest of neighbors, but he lacks nothing when it comes to persistance.

Mr. Friedman has honed in on three of his neighbors who have home-based contracting businesses and, in an attempt to shut them down, filed complaints with Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning. Mr. Friedman, who owns property in the Glenwood Springs subdivision in western Howard, says he's fighting against the "industrialization" of the county's residential areas.

He seems to overstate the dilemma, though. And, his idea of stopping home-based businesses runs counter to what is in the best interests of property owners and the county.

Regulations affecting home-based businesses have been on the books for some time. But only for the past year has county government regulated contracting firms that operate out of homes in the rural western part of the county. Those rules are now being tested by Mr. Friedman's complaints. So far the rules seem to be working well, allowing home-based businesses where warranted, while raising questions when the residential character of the neighborhood appears threatened.

In the wake of the complaints, one neighbor has already been issued a permit to operate his business. Another home business permit remains under review. And a third neighbor is ineligible for a permit because of a large outdoor mulch pile.

County regulations, alas, can do little to end a neighborhood squabble. Some of Mr. Friedman's neighbors believe he is carrying out a vendetta prompted by their complaints that he lets his dog run free. But this is little more than a sideshow and has nothing to do with the county's regulatory process or Mr. Friedman's right to level a complaint.

The new regulations affecting home-based contractors are quite explicit about such details as parking, the number of employees allowed and the kind of storage that can be used. This is to protect the character of residential neighborhoods.

Home businesses should not be allowed to overstep their bounds. But the county also recognizes that more people are choosing to work out of their homes, and that such operations lessen pressure on the area's commuter thoroughfares. The county seems to be taking a prudent course on this matter.

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