Green Spring Valley residents fight proposal to build kennel

Opposition to plan spurs big signs, possible bill

April 30, 2001|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Driving along Greenspring Avenue, just north of the Baltimore Beltway, can be visually jarring these days.

Two bright yellow signs blare a terse message to motorists passing through the neighborhood of $300,000 houses nestled on heavily wooded lots at the entrance to Green Spring Valley. "Stop the kennel," says one. "Protect our environment and property values," reads the other.

The signs were erected by residents who oppose a plan by Greta White and her daughter Erika Lanasa to build a kennel for 50 dogs and 50 cats on their property in the 7800 block of Greenspring Ave.

"Once a commercial establishment comes in, you have an epidemic," said Phyllis Karpe, who lives up the road from the proposed kennel.

Karpe and dozens of other homeowners have spent more than $10,000 to keep the business out. The battle has caught the attention of one Baltimore County councilman, who says he might ask for changes in county zoning laws that allow kennels in certain rural residential areas.

White and Lanasa want to build the kennel on their 6-acre property just north of the Beltway. Zoning laws allow a kennel there, but the owners need special permission, or a variance, because it would be built less than 200 feet from the property line.

They lost the first round before the county's deputy zoning commissioner, Timothy M. Kotroco, who ruled last summer that the "size and magnitude" of the proposed kennel "would be more suited for a larger tract of land in a rural area."

An appeal is scheduled to be heard in September by the county's Board of Appeals.

White and Lanasa run a small kennel at their home with fewer than a dozen animals. Neighbors have complained of barking dogs and a foul smell emanating from the property.

But their lawyer, Matthew Azrael, noted that homes in the community are several hundred feet apart and that the proposed kennel would be about 600 feet from the nearest house.

"Some of the people who have protested this couldn't possibly be affected by it. They're too far away," he said. "They couldn't hear it, couldn't smell it, couldn't see it. It couldn't affect them in any way, shape or form."

His clients, he said, have offered an alternate proposal - a small kennel that would be attached to their house and would not require a variance. But neighbors oppose that plan, too, and would like to see zoning regulations changed to make it more difficult to operate kennels in rural residential zones like theirs, where building lots must be at least an acre in size.

"No matter what they propose, it's not acceptable in this area," said neighbor Sherrie Becker.

During last summer's zoning hearing, community members submitted dozens of letters protesting the kennel. But one homeowner who lives about a mile away said a kennel seems an appropriate use for the property, which abuts a Beltway entrance-exit ramp.

"Too many people have a NIMBY [not in my back yard] mind-set and they don't want anything in the community," said homeowner Miriam Kelly. "I think it's a selfish attitude. It's literally right on the Beltway. It's not going to create traffic in their community. It's not going to create a hardship."

The controversy has prompted County Councilman Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, to ask planners to set up an advisory group to draft a bill that would restrict kennels and other businesses in some rural residential zones.

"If one has a sufficient plot of ground, one could operate a business next to your house," said Kamenetz, who does not want to take sides while the case is decided.

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