Two bills puzzle council members

Measures are aimed at regulating sanctuaries for wildlife, garage sizes

Howard County

September 29, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Two separate bills seeking to regulate wild-animal shelters and oversized garages in rural areas appeared to leave Howard County Council members equally perplexed after a work session discussion late yesterday.

"There are two sides. How can we help both sides?" east Columbia Democrat David A. Rakes asked about a heated dispute between two neighbors over a half-built Highland garage.

"I'm trying to figure out why this is a zoning issue and not an animal-control issue" Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon said about the wild-animal-shelter bill.

Four council members seemed ready to delay a vote on the bill until November, postponing a decision in an already long controversy over Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary in West Friendship.

Bigger setbacks from property lines and more landscaping seemed the favored ideas for dealing with large, free-standing multicar garages, though the Highland structure, for which a county building permit was issued by mistake April 29, seems likely to win approval.

Marsha McLaughlin, the county planning director, said she is considering a proposal to allow any such garage granted a permit in April permission to go ahead. That's because the bill fails to cover the Highland garage and four others issued building permits that month.

David and Caroline Denzler had protested a 2,187-square- foot, two-story garage built 10 feet from their property line on Mink Hollow road by their next-door neighbors and former friends, Kenneth and JoJo Montgomery, and their 21-year old son, Joshua. Their complaint prompted a county stop-work order when the mistake was discovered.

Both bills were sponsored by western county Republican Allan H. Kittleman, who is preparing to take over his late father's seat in the Maryland Senate.

Kittleman should reman in office long enough, however, to participate in the council's scheduled vote Monday on the garage bill, though he was clearly upset at the prospect of tabling the Frisky's bill.

"I certainly don't want it tabled, because I won't be sitting here. It's very important to me," Kittleman said about the Frisky's measure. He expects to be chosen tonight for the Senate vacancy by the Howard and Carroll County Republican state central committees. He would then likely resign his council seat Oct. 20, he said.

The bill is intended to preserve Frisky's by creating a legal home in county zoning law for the shelter, which is on Old Frederick Road in West Friendship.

The measure would allow an animal shelter on a site of 3 acres or more, with restrictions to protect neighbors from unpleasant noises, odors and sights.

Merdon, West Columbia Democrat Ken Ulman, Rakes and council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat, agreed to the delay. Rakes volunteered to lead a review of the issue for a vote in November.

County animal-control officials said state and federal laws closely regulate who may have exotic animals, such as the 31 monkeys housed at Frisky's. County Solicitor Barbara Cook said it is a zoning issue because "the question is, where is it appropriate?"

The bill to regulate detached garages would allow buildings of up to 2,000 square feet on 2 acres or more in the western county, instead of the 800- square-foot maximum allowed in zoning definitions that took effect April 13. The size regulations were a tiny part of a much larger comprehensive zoning review and were intended to prevent illegal use of oversized garage buildings for apartments or businesses.

The Denzlers complain that Kittleman's bill merely legitimizes the mistake the county made in giving their neighbors a permit to build the five-car, two-story garage they have partially erected.

But McLaughlin noted that before new regulations took effect April 13, detached garages in the west could be as big as the main house on a rural property, and garages attached to homes can still be any size. The new rules set limits of 600 square feet for detached garages in residential zones and 800 square feet for the western county, though Kittleman said that may be too small for people's needs.

Guzzone said big buildings that are set back more from property lines could help prevent future disputes.

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