Seven months ago, Harold M. Britton Jr. stood before Takoma Park's City Council, insisting it was his "right as an American and a taxpayer" to build a garage behind his house on Maple Avenue.
Last week, his wife, Janet, said he didn't want to talk about it. "He's trying to forget the whole thing," she said.
What Britton wanted to do was build a garage large enough to house his recreational vehicle. His neighbors, however, asked the City Council to stop him. Britton's recreational vehicle, they pointed out, is a converted Trailways bus.
The council last week decided Britton's proposed two-story-high cinder-block, nine-car-capacity garage would be out of character with the neighborhood of single-family houses.
"Hell, the floor plan for the garage is bigger than the houses there," Mayor Sammie A. Abbott said.
The council issued its strongest rejection possible under its advisory power, recommending that the Montgomery County Planning Board turn down a zoning change that would allow Britton to build the garage.
For the time being, it seems the only parking places for Britton's bus, two trucks and six cars will be where they are now kept: on Maple and Carroll avenues and in his back yard.
All this comes as a relief to those area residents who have hounded public officials with calls, letters and testimony since fall last year, when they first began to wonder exactly what was going on behind Britton's house.
"One day we heard this roar coming from his back yard," said Mark Traversa, whose property on Erie Street abuts Britton's. "I looked out and saw a bulldozer. Then a 40-foot crane appeared. It became obvious there was something going on."
When neighbors asked Britton about 50-foot steel girders and concrete blocks piled in his yard, he showed them a building permit from the county Department of Environmental Protection.
Last December, Traversa asked the City Council why Britton's neighbors had not been consulted. Council members said they were shocked to hear of a construction project they had not reviewed.
City officials contacted county officials; the county officials said they had issued the permit prematurely. Early this year, the original permit was revoked. To get another, properly issued permit, Britton needed the city's approval to satisfy a zoning technicality -- combining his two lots into one -- so he could build the garage.
Britton appeared before the council in May and told council members that a garage would get his motor home off the street and provide shelter for some of his other cars, thus reducing competition for on-street parking.
But several neighbors complained that a garage of the size Britton proposed -- 32 feet wide, 18 feet high and 52 feet long -- would be an eyesore. They pointed out that county law limits private, residential garages to a capacity of five cars.
Britton, members of eight neighborhood families and council member Lynne Bradley met but were unable to reach a compromise on the garage's size.
Both sides showed up at last week's council session for the final debate on the matter. Harold M. Britton Sr., appearing in his son's absence, argued he had bought the land now owned by his son long before any neighbors were there.
Fourteen neighbors reminded the council they were there now, and so was the county law governing the size of a garage. Council members decided against Britton's garage, citing the county ordinance.
The blocks, steel beams and bulldozer now rest in Britton's back yard along with a vintage Chrysler and parts of a motor boat.