Zoning Rips Apart a Community

If you’re taking a ride down to Shady Side and you head onto Snug Harbor Road, you’re bound to see a mess of cranes, bulldozers and trucks in the center of the wooded lot.
    Resident or passer-by, you’ll likely be wondering, what’s with that?
    Last September, Timothy Whitney of Chester on the Eastern Shore purchased the land where the Rural Home-Andrews Hotel received guests from 1888 to 1967. Whitney owns a boat repair and engine shop in Annapolis and planned to open a similar business in Shady Side.
    “It was a marine-oriented blue collar area, plenty of need for boat work,” Whitney said.
    Whitney hoped to use the same site plan as the previous owner, who wanted to build a wood-working shop.
    “But it didn’t show the parking and equipment,” Whitney said. “It takes time to find out exactly what the county wants.”
    Meanwhile, Whitney moved his oversized equipment in, a big undertaking. With his super-load permit in hand, he moved one every day.
    To Shady Siders, it seemed like masses of steel and wheels rolled in overnight.
    “This is the kind of thing that sets the whole neighborhood off,” said Margaret Rauh. House shoppers, she said, are telling their real estate agents to forget houses on Snug Harbor Road. “They don’t want to drive past it.”
    Neighbors were upset over the eyesore, and they wondered if any of the contraptions worked.
    “They see that along the road and they think I dumped it down there and drove off,” Whitney said. “Everything is operational, absolutely. There’s a lack of information on what I want to do down there.”
    A complaint was filed. Anne Arundel County inspectors showed up and ordered Whitney to stop moving in his equipment.
    In December, with the machinery still roadside, the case went to county lawyers. The next month, the county attorney filed a lawsuit against Whitney and his big machines.
    In May, a judge ordered Whitney to pay a $4,000 fine and to have the vehicles and all their pieces removed within 30 days.
    Whitney filed an appeal, leaving the construction equipment idle and in place.
    Whitney says he worked with his engineer on a new site plan. With the environment in mind, he plans to keep some of the area wooded. The construction equipment is so close to the road, he says, because he did not want to remove trees until he had the layout of his future business.
    His eventual plan is to fence in the equipment at the back of the lot.
    All the while Shady Side resident Michael Rauh and his neighbors were mobilizing. Neighbors can ask the county to rezone a particular area, and Rauh and company asked the county council to rezone Whitney’s site as a light construction zone. Under that new zoning, Whitney’s equipment would have to go.
    The county council passed that amendment unanimously. It won’t be law, however, until August, when all redistricting proposals come to a final vote.
    Whitney says the change caught him by surprise.
    “The county didn’t inform the business owner that there was a request to rezone the land,” Whitney said. “That’s not right.”
    Whitney appealed and is waiting for a court date. On July 19, a council meeting is scheduled on the rezoning.
    Whatever happens, neighbors will likely remain at odds over zoning, the touchiest community issue after dogs.