Spat with Baltimore Co. lasts 22 years Carney man continues father's fight over runoff

August 13, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Robert Britton recalls his late parents as hard workers who never asked the government for anything -- until they complained about the water that flowed from a county road into the back yard of their Carney home.

More than two decades later, Britton still is complaining.

"The first time they ever called on their government to come to bat for them, they hit a brick wall," Britton said. "I'm still hitting that brick wall 22 years later."

His fight with Baltimore County officials centers on a dead-end road that extends beyond a guardrail and into his back yard. He says the developer of the Glenside Park and Thornewood neighborhoods built a section of Carney's Second Avenue and kept paving right onto the Britton property.

That, says Britton, literally set into motion a cover-up -- in 1974 the asphalt was covered with sod that peeled away with the first rain shortly after the family moved in. He says rain collects in Thornewood and flows down Second Avenue into his back yard. Development plans show a drain easement on the border of his property, but no storm drain ever was installed at the end of Second Avenue.

Britton said his father suffered a heart attack shoveling muck after a major storm in 1975 and died a little more than a year later.

He said he has spread more than 5,000 cubic feet of soil across the asphalt during the past five years, but it washes away. In June, he built a dam of hay bales and bricks across the end of Second Avenue. Parts of his next-door neighbor's yard are so swampy that cattails grow.

Britton, 45, says he is a former inspector for state government and now installs signs for real estate agents. He has pressured county officials with a persistence and a style not often seen. For instance, he sent officials a seven-page, self-described "novel" tracing his father's life story from a New York City orphanage to a career at Western Electric.

"I think they need to do something to prove they can manage the water, so I can enjoy my property the same as my neighbors. All they've done is produce a flurry of letters and excuses," he said.

"He's presented [his case] in a rational way with his understanding of why we should be responsible," said Charles R. Olsen, the county's director of public works. "He's just pressed it pretty hard over a long period of time."

But Olsen said the county is not responsible for the asphalt on Britton's land, that the issue is between the property owner and the developer -- who Britton says is dead. Also, Olsen said the drain easement does not necessarily mean the developer was obligated to build a storm drain there, and he said the drainage problem is not severe enough to warrant taxpayers' dollars being spent on an expensive storm drain.

Instead, he has offered to have a berm of rocks built to slow the water flow at the end of Second Avenue. "We're trying to do something to alleviate the issue," Olsen said, "but he just doesn't go away."

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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