Anne Arundel councilwoman cleared in property dispute

February 13, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Councilwoman Shirley Murphy has been cleared of allegations of having an illegal second residence on her property in Pasadena -- an accusation first raised at the height of the 1998 election by political foes.

The Board of Appeals ruled 4-0 Thursday that an old guest house on her June Lane property is legal. The decision upheld a decision by the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement.

"It's resolved," Murphy said yesterday.

Or maybe not. Elmer A. Hohman Jr., a neighbor of Murphy's who asked the Board of Appeals to hear the matter, said he might appeal to Circuit Court.

"The fat lady, in my mind, has not sung yet," he said.

The issue arose one month before Election Day, when then-County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr., a Republican, filed a zoning complaint against Murphy, a Democrat. He alleged she and her husband, Francis, were improperly using the cottage as an apartment -- even if only for friends and family -- in an area not zoned for apartments. After the election, the county found no merit to Redmond's complaint because the house was built in the 1950s, long before zoning laws outlawed those structures.

Redmond, who lost the GOP primary that year, chose not to appeal, but Hohman kept the issue alive. Hohman said Murphy received special treatment, and he expressed frustration that it took him six years to win county approval to subdivide his property for a second house.

Murphy said she understood his consternation, but she said her case was different because of the age of her guest house. "I didn't happen to have a wife who was a County Council person at the time," Hohman said, adding, "The whole thing is smelly."

Hohman questioned how the Board of Appeals could render judgment on a County Council member because the council appoints board members.

Board Chairman Anthony Lamartina did not participate because he agreed the situation posed a conflict of interest. Two of the other seven council members agreed and did not vote, while the remaining four participated.

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