'Field of dreams' receives zoning board approval

April 12, 1991|By Maureen McNeill | Maureen McNeill,Special to The Sun

SALISBURY -- It looks as if Tom Brown will get to build his "Field of Dreams" after all.

In a case that has pitted kids and baseball against people worried about lower property values, the Wicomico County Board of Zoning Appeals has given conditional approval to Mr. Brown's Rookie League park.

Board Chairman J. Phillips Wright noted that the proposal drew more attention than any other he can remember. He said that the board had to base its decision on zoning, however, and not on neighbors' objections or the support of Rookie League fans.

"It's been 19 years of a dream . . . and now it's up to me to prove that it can work," said Mr. Brown.

He won approval to build two baseball diamonds and a football field in the sorghum field behind the home he plans to buy on Quantico Road just outside Salisbury.

He originally planned two additional diamonds and a gymnasium that would shelter basketball players in winter. And he hopes that once his new neighbors get used to the Rookie League, he can come back to the county with his gymnasium plans, an option that the board included in its decision.

Mr. Brown, who played baseball for the former Washington Senators and football for the Green Bay Packers, began the league as a way for 6-to-10 year olds to play team sports without pressure.

"We want the boys and girls to all have the same amount of playing time," he explained, "no matter what kind of skill level they have."

Until now, the more than 200 children enrolled in the Rookie League have been playing on fields in two different Salisbury locations.

Opponents to the park complained that the increased traffic it would bring to Quantico Road would make a bad situation worse. The area has been the scene of rapid development in recent years. More than 60 neighbors signed a petition to oppose the plan.

Neighbors acknowledged that their opposition to a baseball park for young children made for an uncomfortable political position. In letters to the board, they described the area as home to a retired population who had sought to escape noise, dust and traffic.

Surprisingly few people turned out to hear the board's decision. Public hearings on the proposal had drawn standing-room-only crowds and had run well into the night. In the half-hour special session Wednesday night, the board listed their conditions for approval and voted unanimously in support of the park.

Among the conditions are requirements that the operator of the park live in the house on the site and that the property not be subdivided without their prior approval.

Richard M. Duvall, an attorney representing the neighbors, says his clients have yet to decide whether they will appeal the decision.

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