Parties on island targeted by county

Judge hears testimony about St. Helena events

May 09, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Three couples soon will be scrambling for new venues to exchange vows if Anne Arundel County officials can persuade a Circuit Court judge to order Keith Osborne, owner of Fantasy Island Management Inc., to stop holding events at the property on exclusive St. Helena Island in Little Round Bay.

One couple has scheduled a wedding June 5 on the scenic island. Two others are planned for September.

County officials say Osborne, who has held parties at the house since 1997 and irritated his neighbors in nearby Little Round Bay communities, failed to get permission to create a private club and stage weddings and corporate affairs -- commercial use of residential property.

Two county police officers testified that they posed as an engaged couple and secured a contract to have their wedding at the island, just off the Severn River, to demonstrate commercial use of the property.

Samuel J. Brown, Osborne's lawyer, unsuccessfully sought to have Judge Joseph P. Manck dismiss the county's request last week, allowing the three weddings, and promised that Osborne would not book more events in the meantime.

Osborne is challenging a ruling by the county's administrative hearing officer denying the variance he needs to operate the club and is fighting the county's efforts to win a court order. In an unrelated matter, the Internal Revenue Service has accused him of hiding millions of dollars in income since 1994.

Owners of Crownsville waterfront homes facing the island complained to the county about music so loud from about eight parties that they could sing along to "Under the Boardwalk." Fearing a steady stream of parties, they oppose Osborne's efforts to start a private club. Last week, more than a half-dozen of them complained in court, as witnesses for the county, about everything from trash to lights shining in their homes, from noise to boat traffic ferrying guests and goods onto the island.

"As far as I am concerned, it has almost ruined the summer. And the spring. And the fall," said Beatrice Peirce, who has lived a few hundred yards from the island for 36 years.

Manck heard eight hours of testimony Thursday and Friday from neighbors and county inspectors, prolonged by squabbling between Brown and Lynn A. Robeson, assistant county attorney. It is unclear when the judge will rule.

When the blaring music and boat horns have stopped was at issue. Some neighbors said they heard it after midnight, others said it stopped about 11 p.m. The county noise ordinance does not allow loud noise after 11 p.m.

Osborne agreed to bring county inspectors onto his property while Manck is out of town this week to test the sewage system because of allegations from neighbors of sewage overflow. Inspectors say they don't know what kind and size of sewer system services the mansion, which was built in 1929, and the portable toilets Osborne has brought to the property are impermissible.

Greg Pinkard, one of two other landowners on the island, testified that Osborne left garbage that smelled and drew flies for a few days after a party last weekend; Osborne removed furniture from a building they own in common and put in refrigeration equipment, a dance floor and tables and chairs; and Osborne's offer to buy his property was accompanied by photos that appeared to have been taken by someone trespassing.

Pub Date: 5/09/99

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