New Life Possible For Ucca

After Bitter Breakup, Will Group Make Up?

May 17, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Nobody cried at the end. Drained after years of bitter bickering, still angry over dead disputes, most North County civic leaders were downright eager to disband their fractious coalition last summer.

When the legal papers arrived in October, formally dissolving the 34-year-old United Council of Civic Associations, the majority of officersbreathed a sigh of relief. Even community activists who wanted to keep the umbrella group going said they were ready to bury the hatchet.

Six months later, just as the dust appeared to have settled, a faction decided to reorganize the now-defunct coalition.

Former United Council acting president Marge Huggins is circulating a petition soliciting civic associations to reform an umbrella group under the same name. Only a few have been approached so far and not many have joined. But several community leaders said they believe North County needs a coalition with a stronger voice.

"There's a huge area of Pasadena and Glen Burnie north and west of us that needs umbrella representation now," said David Williams, president of the Greater Pasadena Council, which represents the eastern third of Pasadena.

State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, agreed.

"We certainly have enough problems in our county, and we rely on community organizations as a sounding board."

In an April 24 letter to the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, Huggins said six civic associations have joined the new coalition. She invited a Glen Burnie representative to an April 29 reorganization meeting at the North County Regional Library. But Glen Burnie's board of directors voted not to get involved again.

"I showed it (the letter) to the board, and they were just not interested at all," said Muriel Carter, president of the group. "I don't know if it was the association or the personalities, but the organization just never seemed to get their act together in the last years."

Other board members said they wanted to avoid getting involved in another round of squabbles. Board secretary Sarah J. Davies said the members felt the United Council had become too "controversial" and "confrontational" by the time it was dissolved.

"I think it was sortof a sense of 'Oh, gosh, here we go again,' " she said.

The reorganization move, which caught many former members off-guard, raised the specter of the very rift that broke the council apart.

Former officers from Twin Coves, Riviera Beach, Pine Grove and Margate were startled when a reporter called about the petition. Lois Kyle, who resigned as president three months before the coalition voted to disband,said she knew nothing about a proposed reorganization.

"As far asI'm concerned, it's all water under the dam," she said. "The United Council is not reorganizing. An overwhelming majority of the communities were in favor of it dissolving, and now we're dissolved. That's that."

Betsy Wirick, a former board member whose name was listed as"agent" on papers dissolving the United Council, also was shocked bynews of a reorganization attempt.

"This is the first I've heard about anyone revamping it," she said.

Huggins could not be reached to comment on her plans. Mary Rosso, an environmental activist who was one of the former coalition's top leaders until a split in 1986, declined to comment, even though other United Council members speculated that she's behind the reorganization.

"It's very likely she and all the Waste Coalition people are behind it," said Kyle, referring to the Maryland Waste Coalition, an environmental group headed by Rosso.

Last summer, Rosso questioned why an emergency meeting was hurriedly arranged to disband the council. She said then that members were notified only a few days in advance of the meeting and called the vote "phony" and "a hoax."

Kyle and Wirick blamed members of the environmental group for widening the rift that eventually prompted the organization to disband. The Waste Coalition, they contended, often cited the council's support on issues that had never been discussed bythe member groups.

"We were finding that people were being misledinto believing we had the same position as the Waste Coalition," Kyle said. "People were dropping left and right because they were reading in the paper that they had taken positions on things they knew verylittle about."

Much of the bickering dated back to 1985, when United Council leaders disagreed about a deal with CSX Realty, a Howard County company planning to build a 2,272-unit community on the banks of Marley Creek.

Several community organizations strongly opposed the "Chessie Deal," which permitted the company to develop 610 acres near Fort Smallwood Road in exchange for 125 acres of parks. CSX clinched the deal by promising to set aside 10 acres as a dump site for muck if the state dredges Marley Creek.

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