Protect Us From Clustering

Readers write

August 14, 1991

From: William Hilton

Highland

I would like to address Aelred Geis' letter to John Taylor ("Zoning view misleading," July 24, 1991).

I disagree with Mr. Geis' allegation that John has been misinforming the public about clustering. On the contrary, I think he has raised some important points that need serious consideration.

The one ground water study available on western Howard County tells us that the west is vulnerable to ground water contamination.

It is a fact that clustering, with greater concentration of sewage compared with 3-acre development, presents a greater risk of ground water contamination.

Perhaps Mr. Geis does nothave to drink from a well, but those of us who do are very concerned.

So far, some so-called "experts" are saying, "Trust us, it's OK." Sorry, that's not good enough for me.

Next, there is the worry about staged development, where open space left by clustering might besubsequently built on.

We are supposed to believe that covenants and easements will prevent this. Maybe so.

But with the county currently considering using parkland for school sites, I am not as confident as Mr. Geis that clustering will result in permanent open space.

If parkland is fair game for future development, even for school sites, why should we believe cluster open space won't end up as school sites, or shopping centers for that matter? Trust us, right?

Three-acre zoning might not be perfect, but it does protect the ground water and actually preserves open space, even if it is privately held.

I think the real issue here is that 3-acre lots aren't satisfyingthe developers. They want more, and -- be honest now -- clustering is one way for them to get it.

CURB DEVELOPERS' DAMAGE

From: Residents of Glenmar

c/o E. C. Santor

Ellicott City

The attached letter has been sent to Howard County Executive Charles Ecker concerning the devastation of the environment by N. V. Homes, the developer of Montgomery Meadows near Route 104 in Ellicott City.

The development will include close to 400 acres. The half-mile strip of trees andthe small stream that were destroyed had provided a 10- to 30-foot wide boundary between Glenmar and Montgomery Meadows.

This destruction was allowed because the developer's plan wasapproved by the County Department of Planning prior to the passing of Bill 66 to protect such areas.

Therefore, the developer is not required to live up to current standards and county laws.

We have been told this by our county officials, including Mr. Vernon Gray, County Council president;Mr. Joseph Rutter, Office of Planning and Zoning director; and Mr. Cecil Bray, deputy county administrator.

The letter to the county executive has already been signed by more than 60 residents of the Glenmar neighborhood.

We hope to alert other neighborhoods not to assume that all developers are required to adhere to current laws protecting our environment.

Compliance with these laws is not required if development plans were approved before 1989, when the bill took effect.

We have also learned that once a development plan has been approved by the Howard County Office of Planning and Zoning, that plan is approved for an unlimited time.

For example, a plan approved in1985 could be implemented in the year 2010 without any required changes, regardless of new laws, or updated knowledge and technology.

We believe that with a little common sense, cooperation andgood old American ingenuity, we could have kept the invaluable natural environment for the future while still meeting the needs of the new development for a storm drain, thus improving the quality of life in Glenmar and Montgomery Meadows.

Instead, greed, ignorance, lack of adequateregulation and poor coordination among county offices have robbed Howard County of one more piece of the natural beauty that has made life here so desirable.

We cannot let this happen in another community.

The following is the text of the letter to Ecker.

Dear Mr. Ecker:

As longtime citizens and voters of Howard County, we want todeclare our shock and outrage at the destruction of the trees and the natural creek that ran along the boundary of Glenmar at the end of Glenmar Road and Elko Drive and in back of the houses on the east side of East Glen Road by the developers of Montgomery Meadows.

On July 22, 1991, bulldozers appeared and started demolishing a stand of trees that often reached 50 feet or more in height.

All of the homeowners in the area were stunned. We believed that the natural waterway and the stand of mature trees were protected by the county and the state.

Frantic calls to the Howard County Office of Planning and Zoning yielded no help to save the trees. We were told that the plans had been approved by the Howard County Planning Office.

We understand that reasonable development is important to the county, but we donot understand or condone this kind of reckless destruction of the few remaining mature trees in this area. There must be a better way toprotect and preserve our natural environment.

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