Speak Out

Your Opinions

October 02, 2005

ISSUE: Last week, we asked readers for their opinions on whether an Anne Arundel County man - Daryl C. Wagner - should be forced to tear down a 3,500- square-foot home he built without county approval on Little Island. Wagner is seeking retroactive variances for the house, which replaced a previous structure on the nearly 2-acre island. But some believe he should have to demolish the structure, which sits within a so-called "critical area" near the shoreline.

Here is a sampling of responses:

County should enforce its codes

Not only should Mr. Wagner's petition not be granted, but any other current projects with which he is associated should be shut down and he should never be allowed to build in this county again.

It's difficult for me to believe that no one ... was aware of Mr. Wagner's project during construction.

Obviously, the county and Mr. Wagner have a relationship and the reversal by the county code enforcement officials is further proof of this. [County Executive] Janet Owens should have the entire office investigated.

There are many examples of Anne Arundel County's inability to remove or correct illegal and non-conforming structures. For the county to allow this glaring example of abuse to survive would simply negate the county's authority with regards to code enforcement. After this, why would anyone apply for permits?

Allen Furth Annapolis

Variances should be discontinued

There are many aspects to the application of variances in home building, not the least of which is environmental protection. In the case of Daryl Wagner's home on an island in the Magothy River, no permits were sought. However, thoughtless, if not reckless, development by builders is sometimes aided by lack of oversight from county government.

It's time we understand what goes on during typical residential development projects. We also have a right to know how our county goes about enforcing the laws. Do the planning and zoning departments apply current laws consistently and equitably? Do you have just as good a chance at a variance as the next guy?

The common use of variances allows for a wide range of subjective judgments to be made by county employees, placing an unfair burden to make fair judgments. It leaves the door wide open for influence peddling, and unscrupulous builders and homeowners to take advantage of the system. It thus encourages the rest of us to work the system a bit ourselves. Why should this be? Shouldn't we simply decide what level of rules we want applied, and make them clear enough that variances become infrequent?

Finally, the practice of issuing permits or variances retroactively to anyone should be discontinued. We should mark a future date, and clearly state that any subsequent construction done without permits will require removal, restoring the property to some former condition and with a significant limitation on future building permit applications.

In the case of Mr. Wagner, if the law allows, he should be severely punished for his actions. Our current laws really should address this through his license to do business.

Tom Hampton Severna Park

The writer is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

SPEAKOUT

THE ISSUE

The Annapolis City Council is weighing a number of proposed zoning changes for the West Street corridor, east of Spa Road.

City planners have recommended restricting the height and size of new buildings, limiting the distribution of liquor licenses that are effective until 2 a.m. and regulating demolition of existing buildings.

The proposal comes as developers move forward with the $300 million Park Place development, as well as a new bank headquarters.

While neighborhood residents say building heights need to be reduced to keep the community from being overwhelmed, some property owners and investors say this would penalize them after they stuck it out in a once-downtrodden strip.

YOUR VIEW

Should the City Council vote to lower maximum allowable building heights, and limit liquor licenses and building demolitions in the West Street corridor? Tell us what you think at arundel.speakout@baltsun.com by Thursday. Please keep your response short, and include your name, address and daytime phone number. A selection of responses will be published Sunday.

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