Zoning unit upholds plan to use barn for snakes

October 23, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Snakes are no different from cows or pigs when it comes to zoning law, a Baltimore County official has ruled.

In a dispute that has pitted neighbor against neighbor in rural Glen Arm, zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt upheld Peter Kahl's plan to use a new building on his 5-acre property as a breeding facility for boa constrictors and pythons.

Quoting the Bible's condemnation of serpents for "beguiling Eve in the Garden of Eden," Schmidt concluded in an 11-page opinion that "Mr. Kahl's operation is indeed a farm as that term is defined by the Baltimore County zoning regulations."

Kahl was "very relieved," his lawyer, Michael J. Moran, said. "Pete really deserves this one, he's worked so hard to build this."

Neighbors said they would continue to fight and predicted a victory on appeal.

"Are we disappointed? Yes. Are we surprised? No. The zoning commissioner did exactly what we expected him to do," said Mary Pat Marzullo, Kahl's neighbor in the 12200 block of Manor Road.

Another neighbor, Barbara J. Sherbourne, called the ruling "a travesty. Bureaucratic rubbish. The law is supposed to represent justice."

Kahl, the son of a former county executive, has hundreds of snakes in the basement of his large ranch home. He got a county building permit last winter for a "barn" to house them and built a 50-feet-by-100-feet, $160,000 structure.

Schmidt's decision noted that the County Council, in voting on zoning laws, did not exclude snakes from the definition of a farm.

The law excludes only wholesale flower farms, riding stables, landscape services, firewood operations and horticulture nursery businesses from operating on farms.

Schmidt, who referred to Kahl's "slithering through this maze of county bureaucracy," also noted that Kahl's neighbors want the law to relegate serpents "to a lower status" than that afforded traditional farm animals.

Marzullo said she would appeal to the county Board of Appeals, where the case would be heard as if new. She called Schmidt's decision predictable, but said she strongly disagreed with it.

"How could [Schmidt] ignore 700 signed petitions, the county Master Plan and the economic impact on property values?" she asked. "This is allowing one person to upset the property values of 35 homes."

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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