Howard bike-path plans lead to opposition

September 13, 1990|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Evening Sun Staff

Thelma Hoerl used to live in a Baltimore County neighborhood that was wrapped around bicycle pathways. She hated it.

"People from other areas were coming into the neighborhood," Hoerl said yesterday. "You'd have litter and trash. They'd bring radios and whatever you call those boxes and play music. It was a disturbance."

That flashback came when she was asked about Howard County's plan to place a 4-foot-wide path behind her 2-year-old house in Ellicott City. She and 100 other residents of the Mount Hebron community of two-car garage houses are asking the county to leave the open space alone.

The residents were meeting today with Councilwoman Angela Beltram, D-2nd, and officials of the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Department of Recreation and Parks in effort to persuade administrators to halt plans to build the path.

Opposition to the bike path is another illustration of the 'u difference between traditional Ellicott City and trendy Columbia, which features its more than 60 miles of bike paths.

"They're trying to imitate Columbia," said Paul Shelton, an organizer of a petition drive in Mount Hebron aimed at stopping construction of the path. "They feel that Columbia is the mecca for all development. Some people from our neighborhood left Columbia because they wanted to get away from the open bikeways and have more privacy.

"We want to say to the county that you don't have to imitate Columbia everywhere in the county."

Residents of the new 70-house development said they were furious because neither the county nor the developer told them of plans to build the path. Shelton said residents made the discovery last week when they noticed that workers were surveying the area.

"When we purchased our homes, that wasn't shown in the

plans," he said, adding that he thought the area, which is about the size of a football field, would serve as a buffer.

Forty West Builders, which developed the subdivision, delayed construction of the bike path pending the outcome of the meeting, a spokesman said.

Jim Walter, the company's manager, said the developer left open space in the subdivision to comply with regulations and had agreed with planners to build the pathway. He said the developer would welcome a decision not to build the pavement because it would save money.

"If the residents are opposed to it and they can get the county to change their minds, it's fine with us," Walter said.

Marsha McLaughlin, chief of community planning and land development at the Department of Planning and Zoning, said that the pavement primarily would be a pedestrian pathway, but she acknowledged that it easily could be used as a bike path.

"We do run into problems with the privacy issue," McLaughlin said.

She said her department was unaware of any opposition to the bike path when it approved the developer's subdivision plans. She said the path, which would cut between some of the houses, was designed to give everyone in the community access to the open space.

But Mary Ann Rinker, of the 2500 block of Ashbrook Road, said residents never complain -- as far as she knows -- when neighbors go past their houses to the open area. She is concerned about outsiders.

"In a lot of ways it would be fantastic to have a path where kids can walk and you can see them. But in another way, you're inviting congregation," Rinker said as laborers smoothed cement her newly extended patio.

She said she also was concerned that thieves would use the bike paths as "escape routes" while burglarizing homes.

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