Residents Fight Homes Planned For Gambrills

January 31, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Developers seeking approval to build 750 homes in Gambrills were metwith a barrage of criticism yesterday as opponents pleaded with a county hearing officer to deny a special exception.

But the developer of Crofton Farms said if he cannot build a planned unit development, construction on the property will be haphazard and piecemeal with no consideration for schools, connecting roads and buffer zones.

Yesterday was the second day of hearings on the proposal to buildthe mixture of apartments, town houses and single-family homes on 221 acres off Route 3 along St. Stephens Church Road.

Residents renewed their call that the developer be required to adhere to regulations enacted in 1989, during the county's comprehensive rezoning, to preserve the character of the surrounding communities.

The neighbors say they are worried that a PUD, which allows developers to build homes in clusters, will cause traffic back-ups on routes 3 and 424 and ruin the country lifestyle they say they now enjoy.

The rezoning plan permits a PUD if a special exception is given.

Developer ErnestJ. Litty, president of Leimbach Development Inc., one of three developers who own the land, told residents yesterday that he would:

* Increase the buffer zone to 50 feet along St. Stephens Church Road.

* Reduce from 70 to 60 the number of homes built in the parcel bordering the road.

* Adhere to county regulations requiring 30 percent of the housing units be single-family homes.

Residents were unimpressed.

"We have concluded that this PUD is totally out of character with the community," said David Weinbrenner, representing the Tanager Forest Civic Association, which consists of 69 homes north of the proposed development.

"We would like to see it zoned under current regulations," he said. "That would allow for a gradual transition.The ink is hardly dry on the current zoning and now we want to distribute the density all through these lands."

Ed Dosek, president ofthe Crofton Civic Association, said there are 9,000 housing units being planned in Crofton and that real estate agents can't sell homes now on the market.

He said the proposal could be turned down because the developers can't show a market for the homes.

Gambrills resident Elizabeth Mimnaugh said that developers try to divert attention from concerns about high density by warning of "haphazard" development that could occur if a PUD proposal is rejected.

"They talk like development is inevitable," she said. "I don't think it is. I think that whoever puts a development there is going to go broke."

But Litty's attorney, Eileen Powers, said the developers do not have to show a need for housing or sufficient utilities or school capacity to support the project.

"We have to prove a public need for a PUD," shesaid. "They won't put a house on the property if there are no publicfacilities to support it and they won't put a house on the property if they don't think they can sell it."

Powers said it would be at least three years before construction started, making it impossible to predict the condition of the housing market.

She also said the land will be developed even if the special exception is not granted.

"Everything the developers want to do will be done," she said. "It just won't be done with the three developers talking to each other and without the building of cohesive linking roads. Is that better?"

Powers also dismissed as "ridiculous" and "insane" a threat by a local environmentalist to sue the county and developers if "even one pebble of land gets moved" on the development site.

Ronald Huber, spokesman for an organization called Chesapeake Earth First!, said acid runoff into a tributary of the South River from the development will kill the food supply for rockfish, oysters and crabs.

Chesapeake Earth First! is part of the national organization Earth First!, known to have sabotaged logging industries in the Pacific Northwest.

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