Marina owner gives party to aid case His renovation plans have sparked dispute


Marina owner Jerry Herson expected 1,000 people and the governor. He got 250 and a state delegate.

Still, it was a good enough turnout, Herson said, to show that he has supporters in a Pasadena battle that began as a spat between neighbors and escalated last month into an army of residents blockading Bodkin Creek.

Herson threw a party last night at his Pleasure Cove Marina largely to rally support for the controversial renovations he plans for the marina -- installing hydraulic lifts in his in-water slips and building boat racks to house the nearly 300 boats parked on his property.

Some residents say Herson's improvements violate laws prohibiting expansion in the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay and that they distract from the quaint character of the quiet neighborhood. But Herson says that when he's finished with his "total recreation environment," he will have fewer boats at the marina than now, and the property will look neater and more aesthetically pleasing than ever.

Protesting residents and marina supporters will take their dispute in two weeks to a hearing before the county Department of Public Works, but for now, both sides said, they will try to outdo the other calling attention to their side.

Last month, protesters lined Bodkin Creek with their boats, vowing to let no one through, to publicize their cause. Last week, Herson tacked up hundreds of fliers around Pasadena inviting everyone to come and enjoy vegetables and dip, hot dogs, buffalo wings, spaghetti and free drinks.

The efforts of both sides to bring attention to the issue seem to be working.

Next week, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend plans to take a walk about the property.

"I've gotten to the point where I just don't want to take it anymore," Herson said last week as he planned his party. "It's time for me to get some support. What we're doing is trying to better the community. The last straw was when a customer called me up and said, 'Do I have to bring a shotgun down to get my boat through the blockade?' "

Last night, some of the 250 visitors said they walked past a protest sign exhorting them, "Don't sell out for a free beer," to get to the free food and drink. But many said they came because they were siding with Herson in the 4-year-old dispute.

One of those attending was Del. Mary Ann Love, a Democrat who represents the 32nd District. She said she was there because she likes to support small businesses. The marina isn't in her district.

"This place is raising property values here," said Bill Machia, a neighbor. "[Herson's] pouring money into this place. He's made a lot of improvements since he bought the place."

At the root of the bickering is a bigger argument that echoes throughout Pasadena, an area that has grown rapidly since the early 1980s.

"People in Pasadena want things to be the way they used to be," Machia said. "Well, times change. We'll never be able to go back."

Some neighbors see the fight as a battle between the haves -- those who live on the water and have their own docks -- and the have-nots -- those who depend on marinas to house their boats and give them access to the water.

"These are all water people out here," said Herson supporter Tom Christopher, scanning the crowd. "When you have people with boats, you're supposed to have marinas."

All of that is lost on people who don't have boats.

When a supporter complained that without the renovations he couldn't get his 60-foot yacht through the creek, an off-duty police officer hired "just in case" to watch for infiltrators leaned toward his partner and said, "Gee, wish I had that problem."

Pub Date: 5/14/98

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