Frederick Co., pair settle home-business case

May 16, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

JEFFERSON -- A Jefferson couple who were charged with zoning violations have reached an agreement with Frederick County officials that allows them to continue their home-based businesses.

Under the agreement, Tom and Georgia Patrick will move her consulting business from a converted barn to their home -- on the same property -- and the county will place criminal charges on the inactive trial docket for one year.

Tom Patrick's business, which involves helping people create wildlife habitats in their back yards, may stay in the barn on their 29-acre property in the southwestern part of the county.

"The [criminal] charges will more or less be dismissed as long as they comply with the conditions," said Joseph E. Emerson, county deputy attorney. "That's all we're concerned about -- that the law is followed. We're not trying to persecute them."

The Patricks also have agreed to be subject to inspections for one year.

The Patricks could have been fined $3,000 and jailed for 60 days if convicted of violating several zoning laws and employing a nonresident worker.

They were charged under a 35-year-old zoning law that prohibits nonfarm businesses in agricultural zones and a 1977 zoning law that requires a $30 permit for most home-based businesses.

Their plight has attracted support and sympathy from home-based business organizations in Frederick County and across the nation. The county chapter of the American Association of Home-Based Businesses is working with officials to update the county's home-based occupations ordinance.

Mr. Patrick said his wife has moved her consulting business -- The Communicators -- to their home a few dozen steps from their barn. Mrs. Patrick no longer employs a worker.

"It seems kind of stupid," Mr. Patrick said.

Nevertheless, he will be allowed to continue to run Windstar Wildlife Institute from the barn, because his experimental wildlife habitat is agriculture-related. He uses a barn office for phone calls, faxes and to publish newsletters to help others create habitats.

The Patricks, though, aren't entirely satisfied.

"Of course, I had hoped we would get criminal charges dropped, like my neighbor did," Mr. Patrick said. "But they insisted [on] putting it on the [inactive] docket for another whole year. So we have that hanging over our head for another year. We wanted this over with."

Criminal charges against Mr. Patrick's neighbor, Steve Hebert, were dropped after he agreed to relocate his woodworking business from a small dairy barn on his 39-acre tract to West Virginia.

Two neighbors who share a lane with the Patricks and the Heberts complained to county officials about the home businesses.

After trying to work out revised language with county officials to permit their businesses -- which manufacture nothing but receive periodic visits by parcel trucks -- the Patricks say they were stunned to learn about the criminal charges.

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