The Planning Board stunned a crowd of more than 200 protesters yesterday when it delayed a hearing on the Waverly Woods development proposal.
"I've lived here since 1978, and they pull this crap every time," Nancy Springfield of Woodstock said afterward. "It seems like every five years we have to go through this foolishness."
Springfield's neighborhood is less than a mile away from the 682 acres that Donald R. Reuwer Jr. wants to develop as a residential, commercial and golfing village along Interstate 70 and Marriottsville Road.
Springfield and about 125 other residents opposed to the Waverly Woods project picketed the county office building yesterday carrying signs opposed to rezoning.
"Many of us took days off from workand other extraordinary steps to be here today," Springfield told the Planning Board after it had voted, 5-0, to delay hearing Reuwer's petition until after Nov. 1. "We feel shortchanged in this entire venture."
David Stough, one of the protest organizers, said, "It was (a) debacle -- tough on everyone," he said. "You would have thought (the postponement) could have happened before this morning. We had 150 people ready to speak. People car-pooled, some brought children in strollers."
Regardless, Stough was not discouraged.
"We'll have an even larger turnout next time, he said. "We'll be organizing, talking to other neighborhood leaders, getting more support."
"We'll beback! We'll be back!" the crowd shouted in a staccato chant as it filed out.
In voting unanimously not to hear the case yesterday, theboard followed the advice of deputy county solicitor Paul T. Johnson.
Johnson said the county's Growth Management Act forbids the board from making recommendations on rezoning petitions filed after September 1989 if the number of dwelling units permitted on the property increases or if the density of the residential zoning increases.
The act freezes the allowable number of dwelling units and the existingresidential density until Oct. 31 of this year. The Reuwer proposal would increase both the density and the number of dwelling units. Reuwer wants to put 937 residential units on 302 rural acres and attractmajor corporations to another 372. Around both, he wants to build a championship 18-hole golf course that would be run by the county.
Johnson said that although Reuwer's petition is an amendment to one filed by another developer in July 1989, and therefore exempt from thegrowth act, it is different enough from the original to possibly be treated as something new. If a court agreed, any decisions regarding the property could be overturned, Johnson said.
After the board voted not to hear the petition, someone among the audience shouted to applause, "We are opposed!"
"You gonna reschedule the next hearing for Christmas Eve?" another person shouted sarcastically.
Board chairwoman Helen Reuther banged her gavel to silence the catcalls.
"We are public volunteers," not paid professionals, she told the crowd. "This is as much to our dismay as to yours. But we believe it is inthe best interest of everybody to clear the decks. We regret (canceling the hearing) as much as everybody else."
"You wouldn't know it," a member of the audience shouted back.
This is the second delay. The board was to have heard the petition July 23, but Reuwer asked for a postponement until yesterday. He said after yesterday's meetingthat he had no warning the board would refuse to hear his petition until November. He said he would refile Nov. 1.
County Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr. said that even if an identical petition isfiled Nov. 1, the earliest the board could consider it would be Nov.26, which is during Thanksgiving week.
The residents also said they want the issue discussed in an evening meeting. Reuther told them it is not the board's practice to meet evenings when it is making a recommendation and not a decision.
At its work session following yesterday's brief meeting, the board chose not to deal with the night meeting question until after Reuwer files a new petition.
Reuwer said he thinks a night meeting would turn the petition request into "a circus."
"We have resisted the opportunity to get 2,500 golfers torespond in kind," he said. "Once people calm down, the idea might become more acceptable. The property is going to be developed sooner orlater."
Rutter agrees. He said he doesn't know of any rural property with public water and sewer that continues to be zoned rural -- one house per three acres. But keeping those acres in the rural zoningcategory is exactly what Reuwer's opponents want.
The case will ultimately be decided by the County Council, sitting as the Zoning Board. Due to yesterday's delay, the Zoning Board could not receive the case until January at the earliest.