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Kenyon v. Board of Zoning Appeals of Harford County

Decided: July 2, 1964.


Appeal from the Circuit Court for Harford County (DYER, JR., J.).

The cause was argued before Henderson, Hammond, Horney, Marbury, JJ., and Anderson, J., Associate Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, specially assigned.


MARBURY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal is by neighboring residential property owners from an order of the Circuit Court for Harford County affirming the action of the Board of Zoning Appeals of Harford County which authorized David C. Galbreath, an appellee here and intervenor below, to enlarge his non-conforming business use in the town of Cardiff. The Board took no part in the appeal.

Cardiff is situated at the northern boundary of Harford County. Just on the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line is the borough of Delta, Pennsylvania. The two primary streets in Cardiff and Delta are Main and Chestnut which are parallel and run in a northeasterly-southwesterly direction. One of the streets intersecting them, and the last such connecting street on the Maryland side of the state boundary, is Church Street. On this street between Main and Chestnut Streets lie the properties of the parties to this dispute.

On the northeast side of Church Street from Main toward Chestnut are a gasoline service station, the farm machinery business of appellee Galbreath, which he sought to have enlarged, a fifteen foot paper alley, and the residence of Elizabeth W. Kenyon, one of the appellants, which actually fronts on Chestnut Street. On the opposite side of Church Street are the residences of the appellants Heaps and Kilburn, and the Slate Ridge Presbyterian Church which fronts on Chestnut Street.

Galbreath has outgrown his present business facilities, and the result has been an overflow of farm machinery and equipment, both new and used, so that Church Street has been utilized

as a storage or parking area. Likewise, storage of equipment has extended into the side yard adjoining Mrs. Kenyon's multi-family residence property, zoned "R-3." Upon the complaint of appellant Heaps, J. Lee Hanlon, Executive Secretary of the Planning and Zoning Commission of Harford County inspected the Galbreath property on May 31, 1962, and as a result mailed a letter to Galbreath dated June 12, 1962, the legal effect of which is in dispute. In the letter, Mr. Hanlon explained to Mr. Galbreath that he had a non-conforming use, that the zoning law did not permit enlargement or extension of the use unless certain conditions had been met, and then set forth those things which in Hanlon's opinion were violations of the zoning ordinance for Harford County, effective December 5, 1957. He then stated:

"You may have different viewpoints on the matter or feel aggrieved by the contents of this letter, therefore within 20 days from the date of this letter, you may appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals for its consideration, upon contacting this office for procedure. Otherwise, it will be assumed that the use of the property to the extent as set forth in items 1, 2, and 4, will be discontinued."

After receiving the letter and later a telephone call from Hanlon, Galbreath went to the former's office to discuss the matter, in addition to which, they discussed an enlargement of the present building. However nothing more was done until about nine months later. On March 19, 1963, Hanlon re-inspected the property.*fn1 The following day Galbreath appealed and also applied for a zoning and building permit to construct an addition to the existing building, which was to be thirty feet wide and fifty feet long. With the application he submitted a drawing which he had prepared on his own stationery with some assistance of a boy scout compass. It was not based upon a survey as required by Article 19, Section 19.3 of the ordinance.

A hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals followed. Appellant's motion to dismiss the appeal as untimely was overruled, and the Board heard from the protestants and Galbreath, who represented himself. The protestants testified that their complaints centered around the accumulation of Junk, noise of hammering late into the night on several occasions, the presence of machinery such as used and dirty manure spreaders on Church Street, and the traffic congestion resulting from parking vehicles and implements on the street. Most of Galbreath's testimony centered around the addition to the building he was proposing. After reviewing the evidence the Board rendered a decision on May 3, 1963, in which it granted a variance subject to four specific conditions and ordered the issuance of a certificate for the construction of the addition thirty feet by fifty feet. The present appellants appealed to the circuit court. On motion Galbreath was permitted to intervene although appellants had filed a motion ne recipiatur or to strike ...

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