Owner of animal hospital contests ruling that fenced-in area violates zoning laws

February 19, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

Dr. Gary Gross, owner of Hickory Ridge Animal Hospital, is contesting a September decision by the Howard County Board of Appeals, which ruled that the fenced-in area for animals behind the hospital is in violation of zoning laws.

The area has long been a sore point with nearby residents in west Columbia's Hickory Ridge village, who contend that the so-called pen or run for animals is outlawed by zoning regulations.

Last Tuesday, in response to Gross' contesting the finding, the Board of Appeals decided to detail its definition of a pen or run within the next two months, according to Bill O'Brien, chief of zoning administration. Until now, the board has never had cause to define the terms, he said.

O'Brien said that the board's decision is not final until it issues a definition. As a result, though Gross has been ordered to stop using the fenced-in area for animals, no action will be taken against him until then.

"In the worst case, we would take this to court," O'Brien said. "We're attempting to resolve this without [court] action."

Gross declined to comment, but has told the board he uses the yard only for his personal animals, mostly on weekends.

However, last September county investigators found the area was being used for animals under treatment at the hospital -- which would put it in violation of zoning laws, O'Brien said.

The hospital opened in 1980 after county officials gave Gross special zoning approval to operate his business in a residential neighborhood, but prohibited the use of outdoor areas of any kind, according to O'Brien.

At the time, the nearest home was across the street from the hospital.

Four years later, the disputed yard was built, and neighbors complained off and on for several years, O'Brien said. After homes were built on lots adjacent to the hospital, complaints escalated as residents said animals in the yard made noise throughout the day and sometimes into the night.

"You can really hear everything," said Colette Jackson, whose back door is less than 30 feet from the yard. "If you're in the back bedroom, it's particularly bad."

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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