The Howard County Board of Appeals last week approved a request by an Elkridge man to maintain his former Fulton home as a two-family dwelling -- despite objections from neighbors and the county Planning Board, who said the move could set a precedent for future property owners.
The board voted 4-1 Thursday night to grant the special exception, which was required when Richard Boulay moved out in September and rented the house to another family.
The board's decision angered one neighbor who argued that the two-family structure does not fit with the single-family residences in the neighborhood.
"The community has been done an injustice," said Tamara Hnarakis, who vowed to submit an appeal to Howard County Circuit Court.
But Ann Larsen, whose family has signed a three-year lease with an option to buy the two-family dwelling, said she has been working to improve the grounds and the house itself.
"We are not downgrading the neighborhood," Larsen said. "We're uplifting it."
The house is on a 5.3-acre site in the 12600 block of Lime Kiln Road in Fulton.
Boulay, who did not return phone calls for this article, had said during an April meeting before the planning board that he built the 4,680-square-foot home and a 640-square-foot apartment on its east side in 1981 for his wife and four children.
But after his wife died six years ago and his children moved out, Boulay testified he could no longer take care of the house.
Boulay leased the house to Ann and Ken Larsen, who live in the house while their daughter and her family live in the apartment.
County inspectors told Boulay he had to ask the planning board for an exception because housing codes permit a single-family dwelling to have an apartment only if the owner lives in one unit.
But the planning board had unanimously denied the request because they feared it would allow a future owner of Boulay's house to lease it to two families.
Hnarakis agreed, adding that she submitted a petition with about 35 names opposing the request. "That's not something myself or other residents want to see."
Tensions have also stemmed from the use of the house. Hnarakis and other neighbors have accused the Larsens of running a shelter for drug users.
Ann Larsen denied such claims, saying that the house was simply a meeting place for people seeking solace from problems such as divorce and depression.
"Just because somebody is divorced and wants to join a group of women talking about their struggles doesn't make us dangerous or bring down property values," Larsen said.
Larsen, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said she has also had to fight rumors that she is establishing a cult presence in the neighborhood.
"We're just out here in the country trying to do what we want to do," she said.
Pub Date: 6/23/97