Lawyer argues trucking firm is eligible for zoning variances

February 06, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

The owner of a trucking company that has operated for nearly four decades on the edge of a residential neighborhood in White Marsh yesterday asked a state appeals court to overturn a ruling that could force him to move his business.

"Pretty tough when you've been there for 40 years and they're trying to throw you out," Leo J. Umerley Sr. said while awaiting the start of a hearing before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Mr. Umerley, who is seeking approval under zoning laws to maintain his Umerley Trucking company on 8.5 acres on Philadelphia Road, said he would not comment further until his case is decided.

His request for zoning variances was denied by a county zoning commissioner, and then approved by the county Board of Appeals. It was denied once more by a circuit judge and appealed.

During the hearing in Annapolis, Mr. Umerley's lawyer, Robert L. Hanley Jr., argued that the trucking business is eligible for zoning variances from a 20-year-old Baltimore County law designed to steer trucking companies from residential neighborhoods. He noted the company's economic benefit to the area: an annual payroll of $2.5 million and more than $1 million in annual tax payments.

But Peter Max Zimmerman, people's counsel for the county, said the business is too close to the Nottingham subdivision to be allowed under the trucking facilities law.

Mr. Umerley, 74, launched his business in White Marsh in 1958. After the county trucking law was passed in 1976, he bypassed an opportunity to register his company and, perhaps, obtain exemptions from some provisions of the law.

Complaints from area residents of dust, noise and traffic problems increased as his business grew. In recent years, he and his company also have been accused of failing to obtain necessary county permits, and with violating trucking safety and environmental laws.

Judge John J. Bishop Jr. suggested yesterday that Mr. Umerley might have failed to register his business to "take the chance" to expand outside the law's control. "And then he comes in and says, 'Oops, I now want to legalize this operation I've been involved in for 20 years contrary to the law,' " Judge Bishop said.

A ruling in the case is expected next month.

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