A decade after North County communities fought a battle with Chessie Railroad's corporate parent to keep heavy industry off Marley Neck peninsula, local residents are gladly accepting what the company has to give.
Yesterday, CSX Corp. offered North County citizens no smokestacks or coal-barge piers, only park land, undisturbed, forested and green.
CSX, owner of 6,000 undeveloped acres on the peninsula, had clinched the deal with community associations and state and county officials several years ago. During last year's county comprehensive rezoning, the company's development arm, CSX Realty, got the go-ahead for a community of 2,272 single-family homes and condominiums on 600 acres north and south of Tanyard Cove.
And now, the county has gotten an extra 125 acres for parks and a long-awaited place to dump sediment from polluted Marley Creek.
"Fortune 500 companies have learned it's easier to work with local citizens than to steamroll your way," said David L. Lancaster, vice president of development for CSX Realty, as he handed over property deeds to County Councilman Edward C. "Buddy" Ahern, D-Pasadena.
The county will convert three parcels -- 37 acres on Nabbs Creek Road, 38 acres along Stony Creek and 40 acres along Solley Cove -- into "passive" parks, leaving the land in its natural state.
Ten acres east of Marley Neck Boulevard will become a disposal site when the county starts dredging Marley Creek. Ahern, state Sen. Phil Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, and Representative Tom McMillen plan to meet with members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Natural Resources this week to try to speed up the process of getting permits needed to begin hydraulic dredging.
North County community leaders viewed the property transfer as a victory, emerging from five years of often-controversial negotiations in which neighbors faced off against one another in a struggle over how much development to allow.
"Heavy industry we were trying to do away with," said environmental activist, Mary Rosso. "When they came up with this plan, it was the best thing we'd seen in decades. Marley Neck peninsula is really lacking in those kinds of parks. For years we've really wanted something nice for the people in the Marley Neck area."
Residents and CSX officials first met in a confrontation over the property's industrial zoning, when CSX unsuccessfully tried to get a permit for a coal-barge pier.
The company had intended the property for rail service industries, but residents would have none of it, Lancaster said. In 1985, the United Council of Civic Associations, the coalition of community groups that started talks with CSX, agreed to support the Tanyard Cove housing development. The developer agreed to cut back on its initial proposal for 3,000 homes and build 7.5 homes per acre, rather than the 10 homes per acre the zoning permits. The County Council switched the land's zoning designation from industrial to residential last September during comprehensive rezoning.
The agreement with CSX drove a wedge through the United Council, as one faction criticized its leaders for allowing what it considered too many homes. Ultimately, the board of directors and officers, including Rosso, stepped down and opponents of the CSX deal took over.