A group of Silver Spring residents whose protests scuttled the opening of an electronic-games center across from Fairland Elementary School now is pushing for an outright county ban on such fun centers near schools.
County Council member Michael Gudis said a proposed amendment to the zoning laws, to be introduced in May, would prohibit any amusement center, pool room, billiard parlor or pinball arcade within 1,000 yards of any public or private school.
Under present zoning, amusement centers are permitted only with the granting of a special exception from the County Board of Appeals.Gudis said he is sponsoring the proposed ban at the request of residents of the Fairland area who vigorously opposed such a special exception for a pinball and games center in the new Fairland Plaza shopping center, which is across the street from Fairland Elementary School.
Bill G. Smith and Paul Karlin, owners of the proposed amusement center, rescinded their application to the Board of Appeals as a result of the protest.
"They never envisioned the opposition and animosity on the part of the community," said Smith's attorney, Stephen J. Orens.
He said his clients are looking for another, more suitable site for the amusement center.
Gudis said he favors banning amusement centers near elementary schools, but is not convinced it is necessary to prohibit them near secondary schools.
"There are places that can be right for high schoolers that are not right for 7- and 8-year-olds," Gudis said.
Leaders of the opposition to the proposed Fairland arcade were Robert and Suzanne Carboni, whose son attends Fairland. They now are pushing for passage of the more stringent zoning law, with the support of 21 local citizens groups.
"We want to discourage entrepreneurs from coming into areas too close to schools," Carboni said. "We believe amusement centers are a negative kind of thing."
Fairlands is not the only neighborhood where the issue has surfaced. The Board of Appeals last month turned down a request to open a store selling reconditioned pinball machines and video games in Silver Spring's Plaza Del Mercado shopping center.
Attorney Jody Kline, who represented the owners of Family Entertainment Inc., said his clients were denied a permit because of the proposed store's proximity to Argyle Junior High School. Although sales would have been the store's major interest, several coin-operated pinball machines were to have been available for public use.
Gaithersburg lawmakers will decide this month on a zoning-law amendment that would require to seek a special exception from the city's Board of Appeals.
Linda Michael, of the Gaithersburg planning staff, said the mayor and City Council are acting in response to complaints from merchants whose businesses are adjacent to amusement centers now operating in the city. She said the merchants complain of increased loitering and nuisance problems near their stores.