The developers of a proposed 722-unit residential community in Gambrills are trying to work out a compromise with nearby residents, but some opponents say they're afraid they won't be included in the negotiations.
Ed Dosek, chairman of the Crofton Civic Association, and Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, said they want more of the discussions between lawyers conducted in public.
"I don't like these things being settled by attorneys," Perry said. "It is best to work this out with everybody sitting around."
Opponents fear that any agreement among the developers and the two couples who appealed the March decision of a county administrative hearing officer who granted a special exception for the project may be detrimental to the other surrounding communities.
"Neighbors shouldn'tbe pitted against neighbors," Perry said. "They should not negotiateaway land use to someone else's disadvantage."
Most opponents didn't know negotiations were taking place until Wednesday, when a scheduled hearing before the County Appeals Board was delayed until late next month to give attorneys time to talk.
Lawyers on both sides say the talks revolve around reducing the density of the development, particularly in the northern portion of the 221 acres, located along Waugh Chapel Road off Route 3.
The development, called Crofton Farms, is being built by Leimbach Development Inc. of Glen Burnie and theHalle Cos., a Silver Spring-based firm that also is building Seven Oaks in Odenton.
The developers are seeking a special exception to build a planned unit development so all builders can work together ona cohesive project that would include a school and a baseball field.
An administrative hearing officer approved the project in March, rejecting arguments from a vocal contingent of neighbors that called the development incompatible with the rural area and disastrous for awilderness habitat.
Paul and Maureen McHugh and Thomas and Dorothy Watts of St. Stephen's Church Road appealed the decision. The Watts' attorney, Frederick Sussman, called the negotiations meaningful.
He said his clients don't want town houses close to their homes. He said the talks could result in the developer putting all town houses farther south along Riedel Road and leaving scattered single family homes along the northern edge of the property, which the residents saywould fit in with their community.
That proposal could reduce thenumber of homes from 722 to 625, but it also could mean more houses would be built near Crofton, opponents say.
Many of the people whooriginally opposed the project said they didn't want a planned unit development at all, saying developers should adhere to the original zoning guidelines, which would allow only 550 homes to be built. The developers say that even with the original zoning, 700 homes could be built on the site.
Dosek and Perry say the public should be privy to the talks so they will not be surprised, as many were last week, when they showed up to speak at a hearing and found out talks were under way.
"It ought to be expanded for more public participation," Dosek said.
Sussman said Friday that the negotiations do involve concerns from other residents. "We don't want to be in a position wherewe work out something positive for my client and then have some other group unhappy," he said.
But Sussman said he would not negotiatein public interest.
Anthony Christhilf, who represents the developers of Crofton Farms, said some of the concerns the community of Crofton has about the project are being addressed. He said if the numberof homes drops from 722 to 625, traffic will drop.
The hearing next month (the date hasn't been determined) will take place even if both sides have reached an agreement, lawyers say, because any changes in the plans will need to be approved.