In Takoma Park -- a populous 2.2 square miles of Victorian mansions, rented basements, neighborhood stores and warehouses--disputes over property development arise occasionally.
Last week, Karl W. Kessler, owner of Barcelona Nut Processing Co., stomped out of the City Council session. He had tried to persuade its members they had wronged city business owners in Takoma Park's old downtown district on June 14, the day they decided to ask for zoning laws that would limit the size and scope of future commercial construction there. Kessler left unsatisfied.
"That's to say it lightly," he said, lamenting the latest council decision that overrode a compromise between area residents, who want to keep things small, and area businesses, which want the option to expand.
"Now that the new council is in, they have reversed the old council's decision" endorsing the compromise, Kessler said. "There goes three years work down the drain."
For the past three years, residential groups and business owners have battled over the future of the city's downtown business district, a string of small shops and large supply stores along the hilly bends of Carroll and Ethan Allen avenues.
Area residents, who have long feared that small stores would be overrun by expansive warehouse operations, had pressed the council to limit zoning to "C1"--locally oriented shops. But business owners wanted the option to expand their stores, and preferred the "C2," or general commercial zoning that allows larger operations aimed at a wider market.
A compromise was reached after canvasses, meetings and public hearings. In January, the council approved recommendations for split zoning: small shops would be zoned to stay that way, large services and supply stores would be granted the C2 status. The council sent its recommendations to Montgomery County officials for final approval.
In the March election, however, all but one of the council members were defeated. Early last month, the new council in an emergency measure decided on more restrictive zoning for the downtown area, where hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants are to be spent on revitalization.
After Kessler and several other business owners pleaded with the council last week, the members took another vote, deciding again in favor of more restrictive zoning.
Under the council's decision, established firms like Kessler's nut warehouse would be allowed to continue but the more restrictive zoning would apply if the businesses are sold. Owners say restrictive zoning reduces their property's resale value and makes it difficult to sell their businesses.
The County Council has delayed approval of the city's zoning request, and Kessler said he will ask county officials to approve the compromise split zoning plan.
"At this point I'm through dealing with the city, and I'm going to handle it with the county," Kessler said. "I'm in the nut business--I don't have time for all the politics too."
The council decided to alert citizens in the future of any emergency measures being considered and explain why the measures must be handled quickly.
In other action, the council appointed the city's first Historic Preservation Committee. Members include A. Phil Vogel, Edward McMahon, Thomas Lutz, James Brogan, David Saumweber, Ellen Marsh and Maurice Berez. The committee will make recommendations to the council on buildings to be preserved and demolitions to be halted. The city will send the recommendations to the county historic preservation commission.
The council also imposed for fiscal 1984 the city's first penalty for late tax payments, 1 percent each month.