Residents say industrial storage ruining neighborhood

Company appeals denial of permit for facility

July 19, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Woodbine resident Carol Fronzoli says there are times when she doesn't want to live in the brick rancher she bought in rural western Howard County 10 years ago.

She blames her troubles on an Ellicott City utility contracting company that stocks cargo containers, metal pipes and concrete rubble on an open parcel across from her house on Old Frederick Road.

If W. F. Wilson & Sons Inc. wins a court battle to overturn the county Board of Appeal's rejection of its plan to build a storage facility on the site, Fronzoli says she may not be able to sell her house.

"If you go out there and see this lovely home and then you look across the street and see trucks moving in and out with all of that noise, no one's going to want to buy it," she says. "I wouldn't even buy it."

Wilson & Sons, based on Plum Tree Drive, has owned the 5.8-acre parcel near the northeast corner of Interstate 70 and Route 94 since 1977 and began storing construction equipment at the site, according to nearby residents.

A complaint in 1992 led the Department of Planning and Zoning to issue a citation to the company for illegally operating a contractor storage yard on retail-zoned property and without an approved site development plan.

The company asked the county five years later to amend the zoning law to add a contractor storage facility as a permitted use on retail-zoned property. The County Council changed the zoning law to allow a contractor storage facility as a special exception.

Company officials outlined their plan to the Board of Appeals in May, testifying that buffering and landscaping the property would lessen any impact on nearby homes.

But about 20 opponents objected to the noise, dust and traffic they said the storage yard would generate, and many of them scoffed at the landscaping plan.

"You can't -- with trees -- hide a dump," said Thomas Clement, who has lived about 1,200 feet from the site for 28 years. "It is a negative to the neighborhood."

The board voted 3-2 in favor of the residents, agreeing with them arguing that if the special exception were granted, damage to adjoining properties would be greater at the retail-zoned land in Woodbine than on a retail-zoned parcel in another area.

David A. Carney, a lawyer who filed an appeal of the board's decision July 1 in Howard County Circuit Court on behalf of Wilson & Sons, criticized the board for siding with the residents without proof that the storage yard would cause severe damage.

"Clearly, there was no evidence to permit the majority of the board to issue a denial," Carney said. "They failed to follow the provisions of the law. I think they got personal rather than objective."

For Fronzoli, the damage is already done. Fronzoli, who moved from Mount Airy to Woodbine, said the assessed value of her 2-acre property has dropped $2,500 from when she bought it for $227,500 in 1989 despite the addition of $10,000 worth of improvements.

"If I wanted to live on Route 40, I would have," she said. "It's enough to make me want to leave my home."

Pub Date: 7/19/99

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