ANNAPOLIS -- Ronald McDonald is a persistent fellow.

Twice in the past eight years, residents on the Annapolis Neck Peninsula have bitterly fought off attempts by the McDonald's fast-food chain to build a restaurant in the community. But now McDonald's has moved across the street -- and outside city limits -- and has received permission under more lenient county zoning laws to begin construction.

The new building site, sandwiched between a 7-Eleven store and a neighborhood shopping center on Bay Ridge Road, is just a few yards from the location McDonald's proposed for a restaurant six years ago.

And it is only a few blocks from the site McDonald's sought eight years ago.

Both of those proposals were met with strong opposition from community activists.

Neighbors packed the public hearings before the Annapolis City Council to complain that the fast-food outlet would create traffic and safety hazards.

Each time, the City Council denied the zoning request.

A spokeswoman for McDonald's declined to discuss specific plans for the new restaurant.

"All I can say is that we're very happy to be in the area," said Ann Connolly at the company's headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

"We have identified a need in that area, and we hope to be filling it by the end of the year," she said.

The city and Anne Arundel County have zoned that section of Bay Ridge Road for light commercial use.

By moving outside the city limits, however, McDonald's escaped the city's strict zoning laws that require public hearings and special "conditional-use permits" for food operations.

Last week, while workers tore down three houses on the McDonald's site, area residents seemed resigned to the new restaurant.

"We're still opposed to it, but there's not a lot we can do about it," said Edward Byrne, president of the Fairwinds Condominium Association, which had fought McDonald's earlier building plans.

Aileen Talley, past president of the Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation, who spearheaded earlier fights against McDonald's, agreed that residents no longer have a legal recourse against the fast-food outlet.

But she said traffic and safety hazards have only worsened since McDonald's last attempt to build in the area.

"This {new McDonald's} is so irresponsible, it's not even worth talking about," said Talley, who predicted McDonald's would increase the traffic congestion on Bay Ridge Road.

She said her biggest concern is the safety of children in apartments across the street who "will be drawn to McDonald's, and running across four lanes of traffic to get to it."

County officials said they may widen Bay Ridge Road, creating a fifth lane to alleviate traffic into and out of the restaurant. They also acknowledged the dangers to pedestrians.

"It's the parents' responsibility to teach children to use the painted crosswalks" at traffic walks about 1,000 feet away, said Ken Schmid of the county's public works department.

Yet not everyone on the peninsula is opposed to the new McDonald's. Some welcome it.

"I see nothing wrong with having a McDonald's here," said Rita Treadwell, a nearby resident who serves on the executive board of the Hillsmere Shores Improvement Association. "It's better than fighting the traffic to get to {the fast-food outlets on} West Street. And it should give jobs to teen-agers in the area."

Betty Hall, the current peninsula federation president, acknowledged the convenience of McDonald's, but said her organization does not want Bay Ridge Road to become "a commercial strip like West Street," the main thoroughfare from Rte. 50 into Annapolis' historic district.

She has met with McDonald's and county officials, hoping to influence plans for design and traffic flow patterns. McDonald's engineers have assured her that the new restaurant will have "a decent set-back and no drive-through," she said.

Hall said she also has asked for "nothing garish -- no golden arches."

And she hopes McDonald's will pick up the tab for any road construction needed as a result of its presence.

County Council member Maureen Lamb said McDonald's would not be required by law to pay for road improvements. But the trademark arches would require a zoning variance -- and a public hearing. She suggested McDonald's might avoid further fights by not requesting such a variance.