Mechanic battles to keep his shop

January 12, 1995|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

A Severna Park mechanic fighting to change the zoning of his Ritchie Highway shop says he will take his case to Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Joseph Langlois, 35, has owned and operated his Volkswagen repair shop for 13 years and has been trying since 1987 to get the zoning changed from residential to commercial.

"I feel like I'm fighting for my existence," he said yesterday.

Without the zoning change, Mr. Langlois will be forced to move his auto shop.

Last week, the Board of Appeals denied his latest request.

The shop, in the 200 block of Ritchie Highway between Magothy Bridge Road and Route 648, is near a State Farm insurance office and a nursery.

The Greater Severna Park Council (GSPC )has opposed Mr. Langlois' efforts to get a zoning change since his first request in 1987, during the county's comprehensive rezoning.

He was denied the heavy-duty commercial classification then but continued his fight through the planning advisory board, the County Council and an administrative hearing officer. His request was rejected at each level.

Zoning board member Al Johnston said the GSPC wants to preserve what it considers one of the last undeveloped strips of the busy road.

"That's one of the nicest pieces of Ritchie Highway, and we want to keep it that way," Mr. Johnston said. "Our position is you don't do piecemeal rezoning."

Another comprehensive rezoning plan for the county has begun, giving Mr. Langlois another chance to propose the zoning reclassification, Mr. Johnston said.

Some Severna Park residents support Mr. Langlois.

"If they gave him some kind of exemption, I don't know who would come against him," said Bob Sacha, a former delegate to the GSPC. "Joe is and honest, hard-working businessman. Even though he's a business, he's a good neighbor."

Mr. Langlois said he hasn't been able to find another suitable location for his business and can't afford the $500,000 it could cost to buy land and build another shop.

"The Severna Park Council might see me as a rebel because I'm doing something that might change the community, but I'm just trying to make a living," he said.

The shop has two employees and is the sole source of income for Mr. Langlois, his wife and three children.

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