A standing-room only crowd of 275 people crammed into Waverly Elementary School Monday night, mostly to oppose plans for a commercial, residential and golfing development on 682 rolling, rural acres bordered by Interstate 70, Marriottsville Road and Route 99.
Developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. said afterward he had not only gotten "great feedback," but "the hostility lessened toward the end."
When the meeting ended at 10:31 p.m., only a third of the crowd remained. Many approached him afterward, Reuwer said, to say they were"appalled" at the way others in the crowd disrupted his presentationwith shouted questions and accusations.
"They wanted opportunity to give input," but couldn't because of others clamoring for attention, Reuwer said, promising to conduct twice-weekly meetings with area civic groups over the next few weeks to further explain his plans.
Reuwer wants to develop 937 residential units -- including 276 condominiums and apartments -- on 302 acres called Waverly Woods.
He also wants to lure the corporate headquarters of major corporations to 372 adjoining acres in his planned development and surround the entire parcel with a championship, 18-hole public golf course.
To do so, he will have to increase dramatically the parcel's current zoning, which allows for only one house per three acres.
If the golf course was "a sugar-coated pill" to make the entire project more palatable-- as Market Square resident Alexander L. Wolfe said later -- the crowd was not swallowing it.
When nationally known golf architect Arthur Hills was about to be introduced, some in the audience demanded that the developers stop talking about the golf course and start talking about their plans to build town houses and condominiums -- the rural homeowners' nightmare.
They said they wanted to talk about school and road overcrowding, not golf courses.
"If you don't want tobe bothered with us, just say so!" a woman shouted as Hills began tospeak.
After eight slides -- Hills had planned nine -- showing how his golf courses conform to natural surroundings, a woman shouted, "Excuse me! Most of us have seen golf courses. We're really here to talk about houses and planned employment centers!"
The audience applauded and Hills quickly stepped down. When planner Fred Jarvis followed with a color slide showing a drawing of the proposed clubhouse, people shouted "Aw, come on!"
"Just let me finish," he said. "Our proposal is that the amenities (swimming pool, tennis courts, jogging trails and golf course) be owned by the county, and if not them, thenbe open to surrounding neighborhoods on a membership basis."
The crowd was only partially buying. One person suggested the golf coursebe built within the current rural zoning restrictions.
The Planning Board will hear Reuwer's request for a change in the zoning Sept. 3. It will make recommendations only, leaving it up to the five County Council members sitting as the Zoning Board to decide whether to rezone the parcel for commercial and a mix of residential uses.
The Zoning Board is not expected to hear the case until late November or early December.
When residents expressed fears the development would clog roads and cause school overcrowding, Reuwer answered that Planned Employment Center zoning must meet an adequate facilities test.
He said he also expects the county to have an adequate facilities ordinance in place by the time ground for the first house is broken in about 2 1/2 years.
Also, Reuwer is asking for "site zoning," which means that everything must be developed and built exactly as pictured in the 85-page petition or not at all.
The developer cannot request a change in the zoning later.
"I can't subdivide my four acres, why should you be able to rezone yours?" a man shouted from the audience.
"Right on!" shouted another.
Most residents fear that increased development will lead to high-speed freeways and road congestion -- Marriottsville Road becoming a four- to six-lane divided highway and Route 99, now a winding, hilly, two-lane country road, becoming a four-lane highway.
When told developers have no plans to widen Route 99, some people groaned, saying the road would not be able to handle the increased traffic.
People also were concerned about "improvements" to the Marriottsville Road-Interstate 70 intersection.
"Who's gonna pay for that?" one shouted. "The taxpayers. We're gonna have glutted roads. You've done nothing but increase an already-heavy tax burden."
When developers suggested new businesses would ease the burden, people shot back that Columbia has a 25 percent vacancy rate and that the proposed development -- one-third the size of most Columbia villages -- would become a little Columbia.
"If we wanted to live in Columbia, we would have moved there," one person said. "town houses, condominiums, industrial parks don't fit in with our area. It doesn't flow."
At least two couples, however, were clearly intrigued by the proposal.
As the crowd filed out, they came to the front to watch a tape about Hills' picturesque golf courses on a large-screen TV.
As they sat smiling, Hills moved toward them with awide grin on his face. He had seen their look many times before -- the kind of "can't wait" look developers count on.