When businesses are bad neighbors

March 22, 1995

Four night-time venues that border east Towson communities have practiced a "bad neighbor policy." The noise, litter, gambling and vandalism linked to patrons of the Club 101 and Club Manhattan after-hours establishments, the KAOS strip club and the Skateland roller rink -- in the Orchard Tree Lane business park, near the intersection of Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard -- have drawn the ire of area residents and the watchful eye of the Baltimore County government.

Now it looks as if the residents and the county are starting to make progress in their campaign against these bad-neighbor businesses.

Last August, community and government objections to the loud music of Club 101 and the illegal all-nude dancing at Club Manhattan prompted the county to pass a law regulating after-hours spots. The law allowed the clubs to continue operating until this August and then seek a special zoning exception if they wish to stay open. Club Manhattan's owners won't get that opportunity; for violating zoning laws, they were ordered last week by a county District Court judge to close by May 31.

Club 101 has more options. Despite complaints about noise from the club, a county zoning commissioner ruled, also last week, that it has operated legally. Neighborhood residents want Club 101 to clear out, but they fear a zoning exception application could be followed by a lengthy appeal. The result might be that the club will stick around for months, maybe years. But then the community could hit back by citing noise ordinances.

Meanwhile, residents have raised questions about a recently opened establishment on Orchard Tree Lane that has begun removing its pool tables and installing a stage. Another strip club for the business park? The owners say no, but the community has served notice that it is observing with interest. Also, Towson Councilman Douglas B. Riley has introduced legislation aimed at reining-in some of the rowdiness associated with Skateland.

To their credit, the landlords of the business park have begun taking steps that show they hear the concerns of the community -- and of other Orchard Tree Lane business owners upset with their troublesome colleagues. For a change, all leasing deals for the park are being handled by one agent, who already has blocked other undesirable businesses from moving in. With the property owners, the community and the government working together, maybe this vexed business park can finally shed its bad-neighbor image.

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