Trucking firm must leave Taneytown or pay consequences Owners objectas judge sets deadline, $500-a-day fine

December 13, 1998|By JAMES M. CORAM | JAMES M. CORAM,SUN STAFF

A Carroll Circuit judge has ordered a Taneytown trucking company to leave town by Feb. 5 or pay a fine of $500 a day if it is still there after that date.

Judge Francis M. Arnold ruled Friday that Feeser Trucking Co. is in contempt of court for not obeying his Feb. 13, 1997, order to move from the company premises on Church Street in the heart of Taneytown.

The trucking company tried to get that decision overturned, but Maryland's Court of Special Appeals sided with the judge and the Court of Appeals -- Maryland's highest court -- refused Aug. ++ 24 to consider the case.

The company continued to operate in Taneytown, leading City Attorney Thomas F. Stansfield to ask the judge Friday to find the company in contempt of court for violating Arnold's decree.

"Our goal is to have the business removed from the site, not to punish the Feesers," Stansfield said.

Threat of jail suggested

He recommended that the judge "use incarceration if necessary" to force owners Helen and Delmar Feeser to obey the evacuation order and move the company by Feb. 5.

Judith S. Stainbrook, a Westminster attorney representing the Feesers, told Arnold the couple had "put the [Taneytown] property on the market and are buying a Pennsylvania property."

They cannot conclude the purchase before January, Stainbrook told the judge. "This is their livelihood," she said.

Stainbrook tried to focus on what she said was a selective lTC targeting of the company by Taneytown, but the judge would not allow that argument. He said that dispute is no longer the issue; the issue is that the company has violated a court order of 18 months standing.

Church Street is a thoroughfare no wider than an alley. Traffic can go in only one direction at a time on it. Church members and neighbors complain that so many Feeser dump trucks use the street that other vehicles virtually impossible, Stansfield said.

The Feesers' problems with the city began shortly after the couple bought, in 1979, the 6,000-square-foot property, which had been used as a bakery, Stainbrook said in an interview.

A year later, the town changed the zoning for the area, but allowed Feeser Trucking to remain as a "nonconforming use," Stainbrook said.

In 1985, the city required businesses with nonconforming uses to register with the city, she said. Feeser Trucking was the only one to do so. The company signed an agreement with the city that allowed it to continue to operate on the Church Street site so long as the company didn't expand.

Permission revoked

In 1993, the city zoning administrator told the Feesers that the city manager who gave the company that permission was not authorized to do so and issued a "cease and desist order," Stainbrook said. The company appealed the order to the city zoning board and then to the courts, which upheld the zoning administrator's decision.

"We're looking at a case where basically government can do whatever it wants," said Stainbrook. "If a private citizen had done what [the city] has done, it wouldn't be allowed. To me, this is an example of arbitrary government action sanctioned by the court. It is not a case that anyone can be proud of."

Pub Date: 12/13/98

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