Dean Gitter, the nattily dressed New York developer who wants to build a 1,310-acre cultural theme park/trade center in Middle River, had heard enough.
Apparently unhappy with negative comments about Worldbridge, his proposed Asian-theme development, Gitter left during a public hearing on proposed zoning regulations that would permit the project. He walked out on about 200 residents in the Baltimore County Council chamber.
The council held the public hearing, as required by law, before the seven-member body decides whether to pass the zoning that Gitter says he needs to get financing for the $500 million project.
Vince Gardina, D-5th, the councilman who represents the area, absorbed much of the verbal punishment from a string of speakers who criticized him for not taking a strong stand against Worldbridge.
Gardina, at the end of the hearing, said he has not yet made up his mind about the project, but promised a decision "by the end of August." He said the council most likely will vote on the regulations by mid-September.
Many of those who spoke against the proposed zoning regulations said they were too broad and would provide open-ended approval for the developer. They also questioned the impact of the mammoth development on roads, schools, public sewers and the rest of the county infrastructure.
Chris Delaporte, former director of recreation and parks for Baltimore and now director of development for Worldbridge, pointed out that approving the zoning regulations was not the same as approving the development.
Those regulations would require the Worldbridge project to go through an additional screening process that ordinary developments don't go through.
"The legislation before you gives you two opportunities to stop the development if you don't like it," Delaporte said.
Donald Slowinski, president of Essex Community College, was the only other speaker in favor of the development, noting that his school is prepared to train many of the thousands of workers that Worldbridge would employ.
But mainly, the audience didn't like the project.
Janet Walper, who lives in Bowleys Quarters near the Worldbridge site, questioned how the county could afford to build the roads and sewers to handle the development, which some say would draw 7 million visitors a year.
"So where's all the money going to come from to build all these roads?" Walper said. "From the taxpayers? You better believe it."
Debra Brill, another Bowleys Quarters resident, echoed Walper's sentiments. "How are we going to handle 7 million people a year? Where I live, we're still waiting to get [public] sewerage."
William Patrick Jordan, of the Bowleys Quarters Improvement Association, said, "The more humans we bring into an area, the more pollution we have. You can go anywhere and see it."