According to county zoning regulations, a homeowner can build a tennis court on the front lawn regardless of how annoying it is to neighbors across the street.
But start giving tennis lessons on that court and those neighbors can cause you trouble.
Robert Anderman learned that lesson the hard way after building a tennis court and then giving tennis lessons on the front of his 3-acre parcel off Route 97 in Glenwood.
The regulations say he can build a tennis court for his own personal use on his lot even if his neighbors across the street may be annoyed.
Mr. Anderman, former tennis director at the Columbia Association and a professional tennis instructor, did build a court, leveling his sloping front yard, and it did annoy his neighbors.
But when he started giving tennis lessons, his neighbors filed a complaint against him and an inspector issued him a zoning violation in September.
Last night, the county Board of Appeals heard testimony from nearly all of Mr. Andermans' neighbors on his petition for a special exception to allow him to teach tennis on the court.
"I wish this type of thing didn't have to happen in our neighborhood," said James Wilson, who lives a few lots down Roxmill Court from Mr. Anderman.
But Louis Schuster, a retired engineer, lives in the house just across from the court and complained that the way the court was carved out of the sloping front yard amplified the sound of bouncing tennis balls and a "cannon" used to launch them.
"This is not contentious at all. This is a case of preserving the tranquillity that we have," Mr. Schuster said.
The other neighbor directly across the street, Robert Blackshaw, also complained about noise and traffic.
"It's like the Hollywood Bowl, the way it's sloped into the hill," Mr. Blackshaw said.
He added that at one point, a tennis ball landed about 95 feet inside his property.
Mr. Schuster, who filed the complaint against Mr. Anderman, also complained about tennis students making sharp turns into the driveway.
"On one occasion, they drove my wife . . . clear off the other side of the street," Mr. Schuster said.
Both sides were represented by experienced zoning attorneys, who vigorously cross-examined witnesses on everything from their knowledge of tennis to how they lost their last job.
At one point, Richard B. Talkin, the attorney representing Mr. Anderman, asked Mr. Schuster if he knew what it would mean for his neighbor to get the zoning exception, which would likely include conditions restricting hours of use and lighting.
"Do you realize that if this special exception is granted, you will have better protection than you do today? If he uses it for personal use, he could have lights out there and he could be playing 24 hours a day," Mr. Talkin said.
The county Department of Planning and Zoning, in its report to the board, recommended approval of the special exception, and the county Planning Board also issued a favorable recommendation.
In both cases, the recommendation was conditional and required a limit to teaching four students at a time, three parking spaces, lower court fences and a prohibition on parking for students on Roxmill Court.
The appeals board is scheduled to decide the case at a work session Aug. 2.
Board member James Caldwell said he found it interesting that there are a lot of properties in west county where horses are kept and riding lessons are provided, but zoning regulations don't require owners of those properties to get special exceptions.