Scott Donahoo says Anne Arundel County officials should let his 90-year-old mother stay in her Pasadena home, even though Donahoo built the house without county permits.
County attorneys say Donahoo, a Baltimore car dealer known for his outlandish TV commercials, violated laws designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay and should not be granted permits for the house retroactively.
The two sides began arguing their cases before the county Board of Appeals last night, but did not get far. Donahoo's attorney, Sara Arthur, posed a series of highly specific questions about correspondence between Donahoo and county officials.
After about 90 minutes of such questioning, board Chairman William Moulden said he believed Arthur was "filibustering" in an attempt to delay the hearing. She had earlier asked that the hearing be postponed until next spring.
"Most of us are scratching our heads as to what the point is," Moulden told Arthur of her questioning.
"What we're trying to show is that we did comply with permits in a reasonable fashion," Arthur said.
The normally voluble Donahoo did not speak during the two-hour session.
At 8:30 p.m., Moulden adjourned the hearing, saying it would resume at 4 p.m. today. It was unclear how long the proceedings might take, but the Board of Appeals, by policy, will not make a decision until 60 days after the hearing concludes.
Donahoo is asking the board to grant permits retroactively for the home, which shares a waterfront parcel with the car dealer's three-bedroom summer house.
Donahoo has said he built the house for his mother knowing he didn't have the proper permits. He paid $2,100 in fines along the way. He has said he built without permission because he urgently needed to move his mother from Ocean City to a place where he and his brother could look after her.
County attorneys asked the board to deny Donahoo's request. "He failed to actively pursue his building permits," said Katy Byrne, the attorney arguing the case for the county.
The county lawyers have already asked a Circuit Court judge to order the house demolished.
Anne Arundel officials say Donahoo, who lives in Cockeysville, had no excuse for building in an environmentally protected area without a permit. They have said Donahoo's decision to build the house is one of the worst violations they have seen of laws designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
Donahoo, who owns Foreign Motors Kia on Belair Road in Hamilton, has appeared in offbeat commercials in the Baltimore area as a hillbilly, a judge, a lounge singer and Santa Claus. He flirted with a mayoral run in Baltimore last year but decided against a bid because, he said, he didn't want to shift his primary residence to the city.
Donahoo first applied to build a stand-alone garage on the Water Oak Point Road site. But when his father died two years ago, he decided the structure would make a nice home for his mother, Ruth Donahoo.
But Donahoo had never obtained permission to build on the property, and in October 2002, the county ordered work on the house to stop. In April last year, the county Health Department ruled that the property did not have enough sewage capacity to accommodate a second house. An appeal to that ruling is pending.