A proposed one-chair beauty parlor in a woman's Centennial-area home has sparked outrage from dozens of neighbors who see the specter of commercialism and a pending four-house development as a threat to their quiet area.
More than 70 people wearing "Save Our Homes - Don't Rezone" buttons crowded into a hearing room Monday night in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City. County hearing examiner Thomas Carbo had to gavel for quiet several times to stop bitter bickering over Tamila Aliyeva's application for her home business on Gwynn Park Drive, off Old Annapolis Road.
"It's a residential neighborhood, and we're afraid it's going to set a precedent. It will change our way of life," said Linda Fitzsimmons, who has lived in the Gwynn Acres community for more than 30 years.
Aliyeva, 38, who is renting the house, said her neighbors' hostility is keeping her awake at night and frightening her children, ages 10 and 14. Her business would serve only one customer at a time, she said, and would require no physical alterations to the house.
"They come and stare at my windows, take pictures of my driveway and measure my driveway. This is too much for me," she told Carbo.
"I was stunned," said Bruce Mann, Aliyeva's attorney, who argued that her request is a simple conditional-use zoning case that should be routinely approved.
But people like John Hauf, 55, whose family has lived in the neighborhood since 1959, said they don't trust Aliyeva or Jacob Hikmet, the developer who owns her house. Hikmet battled through the courts for years for permission to build his seven-house Red Fox Estates development off Gwynn Park Drive.
Now he wants county permission to build a driveway past Aliyeva's house to develop four more homes on steep, wooded slopes behind it. That's why he bought the property, he said. His driveway request was deferred by the county's subdivision review committee because of doubts he has the required 24-foot right of way required for the driveway, said Cindy Hamilton, chief of the division of land development.
County officials and Hikmet said his request for a waiver to build the driveway is not related to the beauty shop case, but the neighbors said they don't believe it.
"She's a friend of mine," Hikmet said. "This is the most benign use. It makes no difference [for the driveway] if she does a hair salon or not."
But Hauf said, "It's a first step in getting the houses. She'll say, `I need a bigger driveway.' It's incremental." The residents, he said, "thought she was very disingenuous [at the hearing]. She said she's not operating a beauty salon, but you see people outside with aprons on."
Aliyeva insisted she is not operating the salon but said she does sell beauty products from home and entertains friends there.
The distrust was palpable in the hearing room as residents questioned Aliyeva about parking, chemicals used in hair coloring, and fire dangers.
"Why, at 3 p.m. today, there was your car and two other cars in the driveway?" asked one man during the hearing. Aliyeva referred to her sales business and said others on the block park up to six vehicles, including a huge motor home - a comment that prompted a derisive response from the crowd that they aren't operating businesses.
"It's going to affect the value of the property," Fitzsimmons said yesterday.