The Howard County Planning Board has recommended that a North Laurel man be allowed to continue operating his 52-year-old contracting business out of his home.
Robert E. Higdon persuaded the board Wednesday night that his general contracting and home improvement company has been in operation at his home in the 10800 block of Scaggsville Road for more than 50 years.
"I've owned the property since 1943 and I've been in the contracting business all my life," said Mr. Higdon, 78.
The Department of Planning and Zoning had challenged Mr. Higdon to prove that his business was in existence before 1948 -- the year Howard County adopted zoning regulations and classified his property as residential.
The department's objection to Mr. Higdon's business was prompted by a complaint from a neighbor about junk and debris on the 11.5-acre property.
A department inspector found that Mr. Higdon and his two sons were operating the business without proper zoning.
But letters from several of Mr. Higdon's neighbors -- and testimony from another longtime neighbor -- provided enough information for the board to conclude that Mr. Higdon's business began before the county's zoning regulations.
"We believe that the business has been there all of the time," Chairwoman Joan Lancos said before the three-member board made its unanimous decision.
Mr. Higdon cleaned up some of the debris that prompted the initial complaint, and no one testified against his petition. Board members said trees in front of Mr. Higdon's property prevent passers-by from seeing the business, if debris and junk do not pile up.
The board suggested that several restrictions be placed on Mr. Higdon's business to prevent it from expanding significantly, including limiting equipment and trucks that can be stored there.
The board's recommendation goes before the Board of Appeals, which is to conduct a hearing Aug. 10.