It has been more than eight years since Brian DiMaggio purchased nearly 4.5 acres at the corner of Gamber and Old Gamber roads in Finksburg with the intention of relocating his auto and truck repair business there.
After what DiMaggio describes as a "long battle" for him, the Board of Carroll County Commissioners is scheduled to render its decision Dec. 19 on what has become an extended battle over a proposed zoning change.
Before the board is a request from DiMaggio to change the zoning of the property, which he purchased in August 2005, to allow for DiMaggio's planned auto repair shop suitable for servicing large trucks, such as box trucks, school buses, and shuttle buses.
DiMaggio presented his arguments to commissioners Dec. 5 in the form of a two-hour presentation, describing each of his steps over the past eight years.
The presentation was followed by an impassioned back and forth with commissioners and about 15 residents, most of whom oppose DiMaggio's request.
DiMaggio claims the county has been unfair to him in his quest to relocate his Cross Roads Truck & Auto shop. Residents say building an auto and truck repair shop is inappropriate for their neighborhood.
DiMaggio's request for a change is rooted in a contention that when the county established zoning for the property, it made a mistake; this is one of the allowable reasons for making a zoning change outside the comprehensive rezoning process under the state's guideline zoning laws.
People opposed to the change have argued that if a mistake was made it was a mistake in the other direction -- that the property should have been zoned for residential use.
"The mistake in zoning is that he [DiMaggio] brought the property without due diligence," said Joan Huff, who lives about a half-mile from the property. "It was never zoned for that heavy use."
DiMaggio previously sought a conditional use for the property through the Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals, which denied his request in 2007. Later that year, he challenged the board's decision in Carroll County Circuit Court, but the denial was upheld.
The latest challenge in the effort was introduced Sept. 17 to the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission. DiMaggio has asked the county to rezone his property from Business Neighborhood Retail (B-NR) classification to the more intensive Business General (B-G).
For the request to be approved, DiMaggio must establish under the law that a mistake was made in the 1981 Finksburg Area and Environs Comprehensive Plan.
The property had a zoning designation of Business Local (B-L) in 1981, but that classification was replaced with Business Neighborhood Retail classifcation in 2006.
While the zoning categories are similar, the B-NR district restricts some uses, including those outlined in DiMaggio's proposal, to 10,000 square feet (about a quarter of an acre).
DiMaggio has said he expects his auto and truck repair shop to be 13,000 to 15,000 square feet.
The Planning Commission voted Oct. 15 to forward DiMaggio's petition to the Carroll Board of County Commissioners with a recommendation that the change be denied on the grounds that the current zoning was not mistakenly imposed.
The county's planning staff agrees with the commission that no mistake was made in the 1981 plan.
DiMaggio, however, maintains Business Neighborhood Residential zoning is inappropriate for this site because it is not in a densely populated neighborhood. He also says that a 10,000-square-foot restriction for a building with the zoning classification is inappropriate for a site as large as 4.5 acres.
He claims the size restriction limits the possibilities for commercial development and ignores that the property is along Route 91, making it appropriate for a more intense business zoning classification.
(The property is not affected by the recently adopted Finksburg Corridor Plan.)
DiMaggio said the change from B-L to B-NR in 2006 has derailed his development plan and makes it impossible for his business to operate on the site without another zoning change.
The County Commissioners, meanwhile, are not being asked to evaluate whether a mistake was made, but rather to confirm that the 2006 action simply subsituted one zoning classification for another..
DiMaggio had originally proposed building a 32,000-square-foot garage, which he said came at the request of former county chief of development review Dick Owings to ensure limited commercial space in Finksburg would not be wasted.
At present, the property has no buildings, but two billboards are situated on it.
According to DiMaggio, the truck repair aspect of his business represents about 20 percent of the vehicles serviced, but 50 percent of his profits.
Not being able to service trucks would make this project unviable, he said.
Huff said neighbors are "absolutely" concerned that if DiMaggio's request is approved he will expand his truck repair services.
DiMaggio said he has attempted to sell the property, but believes the zoning restrictions are making it hard to sell.
Although the idea of nearby residents purchasing the property to resolve this issue has been proposed, Huff doesn't believe it will happen.
"I don't think he'd sell it to us," she said. "He's not serious about trying to sell it."