Farm owner pays $5,600 in copter fines He let Rite Aid chairman take off in Green Spring

October 19, 1998|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

The owner of a Green Spring Valley horse-breeding farm has paid $5,600 in zoning fines for illegally allowing the helicopter of the chairman of Rite Aid Corp. to take off in the wealthy neighborhood last fall.

Edgar Lucas paid the fines recently rather than face a Baltimore County zoning hearing officer, said Richard Wisnom, chief zoning enforcement officer.

Lucas was given 28 days' worth of fines that totaled $200 per day after he allowed Martin L. Grass, chairman of Rite Aid, to take off from Helmore Farm during his commute to the drugstore chain's Harrisburg, Pa., headquarters.

The takeoffs have been protested by neighbors of Grass, who lives in a $2 million estate in the valley where helicopter use is banned by highly restrictive agricultural zoning.

Grass and Lucas successfully obtained a special zoning exception last summer from Deputy Zoning Commissioner Timothy M. Kotroco, who ruled the chopper's roar lasts 15 seconds -- not enough to create "detriment to the surrounding neighborhood."

Kotroco allowed one takeoff per day under his order, which is being appealed by Helmore's neighbors to the county's Board of Appeals.

Deirdre Smith, one of the neighbors, said last week that Grass continues to take off daily and a concrete helipad with floodlights has been built on the 87-acre farm.

Wisnom said the fines ceased after Kotroco's order was signed Aug. 5. Before that, zoning inspectors fined Lucas each time a neighbor reported a takeoff, he said.

Lucas' attorney, G. Scott Barhight, could not be reached for comment.

Grass first took off from a field at Greenspring Avenue and Hillside Road, near his estate. In October 1997, he moved the helipad to Helmore Farm, a thoroughbred farm at 901 Greenspring Valley Road, near Falls Road.

Pub Date: 10/19/98

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