Rob Peacock has gotten used to moving on short notice.
Six days after he received a one-month extension from the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services to continue storing and selling classic cars from his home, that extension was rescinded.
Peacock said he was notified of the rescission on Tuesday, March 6 with the order that he be cleared out by Wednesday, March 7. Peacock said that he moved the cars out in the early morning hours of March 7. Susan Scala-Demby, zoning manager for the Department of Permitting Services, confirmed that as of Wednesday, March 8 the cars had been moved from Peacock’s property.
“It’s done, the cars are gone and that’s it. Case closed,” said Peacock.
Scala-Demby said that she met with Peacock and his attorney on Wednesday, Feb. 28 and granted Peacock the extension to April 5 because her impression was that Peacock was making strides towards moving cars.
“What was told to me then was that he had a car sales business and that he had lost his lot, but that he was signing a new lease [on a commercial lot] but couldn’t move right away,” said Scala-Demby.
That extension was rescinded when Scala-Demby learned that Peacock was also operating an Enterprise car rental franchise from his residence, said Scala-Demby, something that she said Peacock had not disclosed at the Feb. 28 meeting.
“I didn’t have all the information,” said Scala-Demby. The car rental business could potentially have a greater impact on the neighborhood than selling cars, she said.
“That is not an appropriate use of residential space,” Scala-Demby said.
Peacock said that the franchise consisted of one woman who sat in his house who, when called upon, would drive to Rockville to pick up a rental car, then drive to pick up a customer, who then returned her to Peacock’s property. When the extension was rescinded, Peacock said he stopped housing the Enterprise franchise.
“She’s gone too,” Peacock said of the employee. “I don’t want any trouble.”
PEACOCK SAID that he was forced into using the residence that he rents at 9600 River Road as his primary place of business when he had to move his business on short notice.
Jonathan Cherner closed Cherner Automotive in Potomac Village at the end of January after selling the lease on the property to Chevy Chase Bank. Cherner then sold the cars to Peacock, but Peacock said that Chevy Chase Bank forced him to move from the Potomac Village property far earlier than he had originally anticipated, with only two weeks notice.
“Frankly, I’m surprised we were able to move everything in two weeks,” said Peacock. Peacock said that he got the idea to work from home from his landlord, Maqsood Mir. Peacock said that Mir used to operate a law firm from the residence.
Frank De Lange, the zoning investigator with the Department of Permitting Services who issued the original notice of violation to Peacock on Feb. 5, said Peacock’s business violated the county’s zoning ordinances, as did the tent that covered the cars.
Soon after Peacock moved in, neighbors and members of the community began to voice their concern.
Nancy Bowen is a Potomac resident. Bowen said that she was concerned about Peacock's use of the property even though she does not live near it.
“Commercial encroachment on residential property is detrimental to property owners in general,” Bowen said. “The zoning laws exist for a reason, so that property owners are not harmed by the use of neighboring property.”
Ginny Barnes of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association said that when she learned that Peacock had received an extension she was furious.
“It was just too much,” said Barnes, adding that she contacted the office of County Executive Ike Leggett to voice her frustration. Barnes said she was unsure if that contact had any bearing on the resolution of the situation, but that she is happy with the resolution.
“They’re out, that’s the important thing,” said Barnes.
Peacock said that he was frustrated by what he perceived to be a lack of understanding of his predicament.
“Nobody wants to look at my point of view,” Peacock said of his forced move from Potomac Village. Peacock said that people should look at his situation with a greater perspective.
“People are probably dumping poisonous waste all over the county. I’m parking some cars for God’s sake … I’m trying to make a living.”
De Lange said that the strong reaction from both sides to this situation was not uncommon and that zoning issues often provoke strong emotions.
“Zoning, contrary to most people’s impression, is a very human element,” De Lange said.
Peacock said that he will open his new store in Shady Grove on May 1 at the location that was formerly Eastern’s Automotive.
As of Monday, March 13 the tent had not been removed. Peacock said the tent company was backlogged but would remove the tent soon.
Vans will continue to come in and out of Peacock’s residence for several weeks, as Peacock said as he is having work done in his home.
“I want nobody unhappy,” Peacock said. “It’s all over. I’m done. I’m tired.”