Mt. Airy, Maryland: Where Vicious Neighbors and Local Government Unite

Mike and Laura Wonsala with their family

A group of activists struck a blow against small business owners working out of their homes in Mt. Airy, Maryland last evening, letting potential future home buyers know that their potential neighbors will use everything from local zoning ordinances to public character assassination to ensure that new residents fall in line with the town’s “Master Plan.”

Mike Wonsala, formerly of New Jersey, moved to Mt. Airy two years ago and applied for permission to conduct FBI background checks on historical firearm purchasers at his new residence. This is a very common practice, with those who do so colloquially known as “table-top FFLs.”

Mr. Wonsala thought that this would be a relatively routine request. Now, almost two years later, he learned the hard lesson that Mt. Airy’s nosey neighbors and their allies in the local government will stop at nothing, including making baseless accusations to the ATF in order to have federal agents raid his home, to ensure he cannot start his small business.

Over the last two years, the Mt. Airy Town Council, at the behest of Mr. Wonsala’s neighbors, have used every procedural tactic they can dream up to stall his applications. While they have been coming up with new ways to claim that the hoops Mr. Wonsala’s jumped through are not enough, his neighbors engaged in a coordinated attempt at character assassination, claiming that the family man’s use of ATV trails in the neighborhood while bonding with his son shows that he is too irresponsible to run background checks on gun buyers.

Although the arguments as to why Mr. Wonsala’s request should be denied are varied, including that he is “already rich enough” and owns the “nicest home on the block,” the crux of their argument is that his business would decrease property values.

“They never seem to take a moment to reflect on their own actions – using the town council as a bludgeon to deny small businesses that don’t fit with their ‘Master Plan’ opportunity, acting with hostility to their neighbors, making accusations that result in federal agents raiding their neighbors’ residence – and that maybe people won’t want to buy homes in a community that treats neighbors in such a manner,” said Mr. Wonsala. “When potential home buyers see how my family and supporters were vilified, stifled, hampered at every turn, will they really pay top dollar to come live in this community?”

“The damage to our community’s reputation has already been done,” said Mrs. Wonsala. “The shameful antics of a vocal minority poisoned our community. When people see how the Town Council railroaded my husband’s attempt to bring a new business to this town and attacked his character, I cannot fathom why they would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars just to find themselves subject to the same abuse.”

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