Nearly 40 Manor Lane residents are urging Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman and the County Council to address "a number of violations" by Manor Hill Brewing in Ellicott City, despite the owner's repeated assurances that he is in compliance with the farm brewery permit rules and regulations.
According to brewery owner Randy Marriner, Manor Hill opened its doors to the public in January after numerous customer requests, operating under a Class A farm brewery license that began a year prior, in accordance with Article 2B of the state of Maryland liquor laws and zoning regulations.
The Department of Planning and Zoning allows the brewery to be open to the public 69 hours a week. Marriner said he decided to limit visitation to 20 hours a week, Friday through Sunday. Only 50 visitors are allowed at one time.
However, in a five-page letter addressed to Kittleman on April 29, nearby residents state that traffic caused by the brewery and physical aspects of the lane have "degraded the abilities of residents of the lane and nearby areas to use the lane for walking, biking and horseback riding," particularly during the business' public visitation.
Joan Pontius, lane resident of 17 years, said tractor-trailers are frequently driving back and forth for brewery deliveries. Although the permit states that the lane should be kept rural, Pontius said that is no longer the case.
"The last time I took my horse out, there was a big rig coming down the road," she said. "I don't think that's really compatible with a rural environment."
Residents have gone as far as to conduct their own traffic study, Pontius wrote in the letter, which was held on April 24 from 11:50 a.m. to 5:03 p.m. during brewery hours open to the public. During that time, the letter reads, 208 vehicles were counted either entering or leaving Manor Lane, with 159 "going to or coming from the brewery.
"It resembles more of an industrial operation," Pontius said. "This is a legal issue. It's not like, 'Oh, can you turn your stereo down?'"
In the letter, residents say this study shows traffic is in clear violation of the permit, which states that "the use of local roads for access to the property will not unduly conflict with other uses that access the road."
"We're fine with him brewing beer. He can brew all the beer he wants," said William Flanigan, another resident and supporter of the letter. "But once [Marriner] opened it to the public, it made a whole lot of difference on the road. We had no input on the impact this would have on our street."
Howard County Police Department spokeswoman Lori Boone said the department has posted a speed sign on Manor Lane, but there are no speed cameras or license plate readers. Although the sign does not collect information for citations, she said, speed data is collected to determine the number, days and times of all violations.
"The sign also displays current speed to alert a driver to how fast they are traveling," Boone said.
Marriner maintains he is obeying the permit's rules and restrictions, and said he's also kept the brewery and its exposure limited to the public.
"I've been granted the attraction sign out on [Route] 29 to advertise that we're here. I'm not doing that," he said. "There's a motor coach line that does bus tours and they want to include us in their bus tour. I've said, 'No, we're not doing that.' I'm trying to be respectful."
In his experiences, Marriner said, farming operations have always been "annoying to neighborhood" in regards to animals or traffic. Although neighbors want him to shut down, he added, that will not happen.
"It's unfortunate that my neighbors think that this is their private little lane. It's a public street," Marriner said. "I can trace my family roots to Howard County with the founding families. My roots are deep."
The residents' letter also highlights previous statements made by Marriner in various news publications, including the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times and Washington Post, stating he "went against his word" after repeatedly saying he would not open the brewery to the public.
"In response to the very negative impact of the brewery's visitor traffic, we ask that the county promptly exercises its authority to revoke visiting hours to the brewery," the letter reads."
On May 3, county press secretary Andy Barth said county officials received the letter and are reviewing its statements.