Greenmount mulch facility ruled illegal

Board says operation on Route 30 violates zoning law of 1998

January 05, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals determined yesterday that Martin P. Hill, son of prominent housing developer Martin K. P. Hill, is operating an illegal business in Greenmount.

After lengthy public discussion, the board found that Hill's operation of a mulch storage and sales facility in the 2600 block of Hanover Pike (Route 30) is an "illegal business" that violates county zoning laws.

Martin P. Hill Landscaping has been operating the mulch business for two years at the corner of Cape Horn Road north of Hampstead. The 4-acre parcel has been zoned for residential use since February 1998.

The property has been used by businesses since 1958 -- seven years before the county adopted zoning laws -- when Thomas Bennett and Hunter Inc. opened an auxiliary cement plant on the site.

Property owner Darlene M. Lauterbach, who inherited the land in 1993 from her mother, Josephine Stoffle, asked the appeals board to allow Hill to continue his mulch business.

"The site isn't suitable for anything else, really," Lauterbach said. "If it's left vacant, I can only imagine the trash that will pile up there, and I'll be responsible to clean it up."

Two neighbors testified that the mulch operation causes traffic problems when tractor-trailers arrive at and leave the site. They also expressed concern about the business's environmental impact.

Lauterbach and Hill pointed out that the mulch business stores materials similar to items used by the cement company -- stone, sand and mulch. They also noted the land has been used continuously by businesses for more than four decades, despite several zoning changes.

When zoning laws were adopted in August 1965, the property was zoned for agricultural use, and Thomas Bennett and Hunter Inc. was permitted to continue operating the cement plant as a nonconforming use. In 1991, the land was rezoned for business use and the cement contractor was allowed to stay. The company remained there until Dec. 31, 1997, when Hill began renting the property.

Lauterbach said she was unaware of the most recent zoning change, which occurred when Manchester's master plan was adopted in February 1998. Lauterbach said the first she heard of it was in October, when she received a letter from George L. Beisser, Carroll's zoning administrator, telling her to remove mulch piles from the property.

At the hearing yesterday, Beisser said he believes it was a mistake to have changed the zoning to residential use but added that the county "cannot legalize a nonconforming use if it was established illegally."

Hill did not apply for required zoning permits and failed to submit a site plan to zoning officials for approval when he began leasing the site, Beisser said. Hill told the board he was unaware of the requirements.

Two of the three members of the appeals board agreed with Beisser's assessment of the situation. Harvey Tegeler was the only board member in favor of allowing Martin P. Hill Landscaping to continue using the site.

"If [the property] had still been zoned for business, I wouldn't have as big a problem with it," said board chairman Karl V. Richlin. "But it seems to me our hands are tied. The use -- mulch storage and sales -- is not a permitted use."

Richlin and board member Howard B. Kramer referred the matter to County Attorney Timothy C. Burke, who will send notices to Lauterbach and Hill, ordering the mulch operation to cease.

Hill could appeal the decision to Circuit Court. He and his attorney, Elwood E. Swam, declined to comment yesterday.

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