Last year, Gaithersburg city officials created "commercial buffer zones" to provide transition areas between business and residential neighborhoods. Last week, city residents likely to be affected by what would be the first of such zones pointed out some features of the classification they didn't like.

John Roy Smith has applied to have the zoning for his house at 312 S. Frederick Ave. changed from residential to commercial buffer, a status that would allow him to convert the building to home-office use, Toni Collier, an assistant city manager, said.

The city's planning staff has recommended that the council approve the zoning Smith is seeking. "They the staff felt that there had been sufficient change in the neighborhood already," Collier said. The "massive structure" of a church on one side of Smith's house and a sunken water runoff pond on the other "has changed the aesthetic look of the neighborhood," she explained.

But Delbert Foster, who lives across the street, said he didn't like the idea that the rezoning would permit nighttime commercial activity at the house.

And Dr. Walter Kaplan, who lives nearby, said he was worried that if one property were granted the commercial buffer, others in the area would follow.

The council did not immediately rule on the matter.