Court backs ruling against truck firm Umerley violates zoning law in White Marsh, appeals judges say

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

A state appeals court has ruled that a large trucking company cannot continue to operate near a residential neighborhood in White Marsh, a decision that could end a long-running dispute between the business owner and nearby residents.

Leo J. Umerley Inc., which has been in business near the small community of Nottingham for nearly four decades, has been operating outside of zoning laws since the late 1970s, according to a ruling issued by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Owner Leo J. Umerley Sr. and his wife asked the appeals court to overturn a ruling that they said could force the company out of business.

But the appeals court rejected that request, saying Mr. Umerley might have avoided the problem had he been more attentive to a 1976 Baltimore County law regulating trucking companies.

After that law was passed, Mr. Umerley bypassed an opportunity to register his company and, perhaps, obtain exemptions from some of the law's provisions.

"The Umerleys failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity opened by those exemption provisions; as a result, their operation has been in violation of the law for the past 17 years," Judge John J. Bishop Jr. wrote in the 15-page opinion , which was filed Friday.

A three-judge panel from the court sided agreed with arguments from Peter Max Zimmerman, people's counsel for Baltimore County, that the business is too close to the Nottingham subdivision to be allowed under the trucking facilities law.

Lingering dispute

The ruling could bring an end to years of fighting between the company and residents of Nottingham, who complain the expansion brought with it noise, dust and traffic problems.

The case has now been heard by a county zoning commissioner, the county Board of Appeals, a Circuit Court judge and the Court of Special Appeals. For Mr. Umerley to carry on with his legal fight, the state Court of Appeals would have to must agree to review the case.

Neither Mr. Umerley nor his attorney, Robert L. Hanley Jr., could be reached for comment yesterday.

The fight has dragged on for so long that Marie Simoes, president of the Nottingham Improvement Association, remained skeptical yesterday that Mr. Umerley's operations would be curtailed soon.

"How long will this business owner be given to abide by the zoning regulations he has been violating for 20 years?" she said. "I just wonder how lenient Baltimore County will be in having this business owner live up to the regulations." TC Last year, after Baltimore Circuit Judge J. Norris Byrnes threw out the Board of Appeals decision that granted the business its zoning variances and special exception, county officials issued a zoning violation that carried a fine of $200 a day. However, Judge Byrnes issued a stay on enforcing that complaint pending the resolution of the case in the Court of Special Appeals , and required the Umerleys to post a $30,000 bond.

Enforcement

Arnold Jablon, director of the county Department of Permits and Development Management, said that before beginning enforcement actions, he would wait to see if the Court of Appeals agrees to hear the case. He said Mr. Umerley would have to drastically reduce the size of his operation to come into compliance and that if he didn't, the county would pursue a court order.

Also on hold pending the resolution of the zoning appeal is any action regarding Mr. Umerley's failure to obtain a permit for a mandated required storm water management system.

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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