Scaggsville family's win in fight about snowball stand put on ice

County files a motion to dismiss appeal

Small business

Howard Business

October 20, 2003|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

What seemed a victory for a Scaggsville family whose neighborhood snowball stand has been embroiled in controversy may be nullified by proposed changes to zoning regulations that could be approved within weeks.

One week before Mike and Marian Frentz were to appeal the county's decision to revoke the license the family held for 11 years, the county reinstated the license and dismissed the charges it had levied.

But county officials are using the issues surrounding the snowball stand built in the family's garage to guide regulations proposed to the comprehensive rezoning plan that is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. The plan, done once a decade, creates zoning regulations and guidelines for the entire county.

The Frentzes, whose daughters have operated their Snowball City stand for 11 years, say they are frustrated by their dealings with the county.

"I don't know what to think at this point. It's like they say: `You were right all along. You win.' They put us through 15 months' worth of grief for what reason?" said Mike Frentz, who built the stand for his eldest daughter. "There's an old adage: `You can't fight city hall.' They can drag things on forever, and you're paying by the minute. I'm hoping we can open next year."

The Frentzes' snowball stand on Cardinal Forest Circle has been a fixture in their neighborhood just north of Laurel for more than a decade. But when neighbors complained last year that the stand drew too many children and was creating a traffic hazard, the county zoning office revoked the family's license, Marian Frentz said, without a hearing.

When the stand opened for this year's May-to-October season, the county fined the family and forced it to close. The stand was reopened under a new permit that contained several restrictions, including prohibitions against on-street parking that Deputy County Solicitor Paul T. Johnson has said were not governed by zoning regulations.

That restricted permit was rescinded in a letter from the Department of Planning and Zoning this month; and last week, the family received notice that the county has filed a motion to dismiss the appeals that the Frentzes filed.

The proposed changes to the zoning regulations about snowball stands would require annual permits to run the shops, reduce the size of residential stands and restrict all parking to off-street. Previously the regulation required the stands to have "appropriate" off street parking. The proposal offers no grandfather clause for the Frentzes or the handful of other people who hold a permit to operate a stand. A check by the county in 1999 showed six people held permits to operate a snowball stand. Bob Lalush, a planning specialist with zoning said one of the main focuses of the proposed regulation is to require annual permits.

The Frentzes "had a permit approved back in '93 or '94, and that's all they had, and there wasn't any kind of approval since that time. I think that was a surprise for some people," he said. "After this is approved, assuming it does, they'll have to come back every year. It makes sense. Things can change. Aspects about the neighborhood could change, traffic could change. There's all kind of things that could change. You want to be able to review the changes."

Permits for home-based contractors, Christmas tree sales and produce stands are under similar annual proceedings, he said.

The County Council has been discussing the proposed changes to zoning regulations for the past few months and is expected to finalize the regulations by next month, said Steve Johns, a county planner who is helping coordinate comprehensive rezoning efforts.

Although the proposed snowball stand regulations haven't become a topic of discussions at the hearings, they could become one, he said.

He said there has been no discussion during the hearings on the proposed regulations for snowball stands.

"Nothing is finalized until the County [Council] files legislation. That will happen in the second week of November, so there's still opportunity for people to lobby either way by contacting the County Council," Johns said.

The Frentzes said they plan on contacting all of the council members, but that they can't dwell on the situation.

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