Neighbors don't like Jeffrey S. Heidenreich's home-based landscaping business. They think his work is loud and irritating.
So they were extremely irritated last night when the county Board of Appeals - after a year of hearings - gave Heidenreich permission to expand the business on his 5-acre parcel on Highland's scenic, winding Mink Hollow Road.
"There's no point in showing up," resident Mickey Allison said in frustration after the 3-1 vote, which tacked more than a dozen conditions onto the operation.
Heidenreich declined to comment, as did his attorney, Richard Talkin. But in a memo to the board, Talkin argued that neighbors will be better off under the new setup because the expansion comes with buffers.
He described the size of the increase as small - "What this case is really about is one commercial vehicle and 4 trailers," he wrote - and he said Heidenreich will add, among other things, evergreen trees and a solid, 6-foot-tall fence to shield his work.
Residents contend that most of the improvements were required by the original home-based contractor's permit, and they say the changes won't help much.
Marianne Faulstich, who has lived on the street for 26 years and is 90 feet from the landscaping company, said Heidenreich is installing the fence. It's not doing a thing about the noise, she said, and it is making her feel "claustrophobic."
"Instead of overlooking the valley, my property now overlooks a fence," she said. "We can feel the trucks going up and down the property line. The house sort of rattles. It's barely tolerable as it is."
Rosemary Quill, whose home is also near the landscaper, said she hears a background noise of bangs and backup-signal beeps when she's on her lawn or in her vegetable garden.
"I resent having to curtail my life," said Quill, who has lived on Mink Hollow Road for 27 years.
Talkin, referring to "alleged noise" in his memo, suggested that neighbors were overly sensitive. Under the terms of the expansion, he said, the business will operate between 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., but most of the activity will take place during the first 45 minutes and the last hour.
Heidenreich plans to keep two stake-body trucks, two pickup trucks and four trailers on the property, as well as a pole barn for storing equipment. Each workday morning, his employees - up to seven - will check in and head out to assignments.
The usually five-member board is temporarily one person short, and last night the group seemed on the verge of a 2-2 split. But board member Jacqueline Scott was swayed by the conditions that fellow members Pat Patterson and James W. Pfefferkorn suggested - such as barring loading until after 9 a.m.
Board Chairman Robert C. Sharps was the lone dissenter.
"The intensity of use, the type of operation - I feel it's a bit much," he said.
"Wouldn't you expect this kind of intensity with a landscape contractor?" Patterson asked.
"No," Sharps answered.
Part of an expanding industry in Howard, landscaping contractors are allowed to set up shop in residential areas with the board's permission because county officials think the work is compatible with the environs - along the same lines as schools, churches and child care centers. County planners thought Heidenreich's expansion would fit in as long as he altered the plans, which he did.
The neighbors' attorney, David A. Carney, said most landscaping operations aren't so near residential subdivisions. Also, the neighbors worry that the conditions the board set will mean little.
"No one's going to police it," said Ed Reid, who lives about a half-mile away on Mink Hollow Road. "Every time, someone has to come and complain."
Faulstich said she learned a lesson about land use from the experience.
"It's important for people to understand that things can change so easily," she said. "The citizenry has to pay attention to signs that go up. Just because they've lived 26 years in a residential neighborhood that's not zoned commercial doesn't mean you can't have a commercial business next to you."