Georgia Clift's ancestors came to the sprawling fields of northern Anne Arundel County in 1851 and carved a niche in Brooklyn Park. They settled down on a large estate and built a manor house.
Over the years, the land was sold off until only 10 acres remained. The house was boarded up after Clift, one of the last descendants of Henry Ballman, moved out in 1983.
Yesterday, Clift returned from her home in New Hampshire to face her irate former neighbors, who live on a quiet, residential street named after her ancestor.
The residents of Ballman Avenue say Cliftwants to sell out her heritage for a profit they believe is too high.
They are furious at her plans to sell the land to a developer who wants to build 94 homes, including 86 town houses.
Bus loads of residents from the Ballman Avenue neighborhood trekked to the ArundelCenter in Annapolis yesterday to protest rezoning the land to allow the development.
They contend Clift wants to maximize her profits and could just as easily build single-family houses or the 55 town homes allowed under the current zoning.
Residents and elected officials argued during a 4 1/2-hour hearing that the development would burden the local elementary school, roads and drainage system.
They expressed concern about an increased risk of accidents from 100 extra cars exiting onto Ballman Avenue. And they worried about losing the tranquillity of their close-knit community.
Clift's attorney, Thomas A. Pavlinic, who is purchasing the site to build the town-house community, tried to reassure the residents. He called a traffic engineerand civil engineer to discuss improvements that he said would solve some of their problems.
But the more than 80 residents weren't appeased. Some hooted at the testimony; others muttered under their breath.
"The issue here is an issue of quality of life vs. a profit motive," said Rick Bittner, president of the Greater Brooklyn Park Council, an umbrella organization representing 14 civic and church groups.
He told County Zoning Officer Roger C. Wilcox that the entire community was united against doubling the property's zoning. When Wilcox asked whether the neighborhood would be less opposed to building under the current zoning, Bittner nodded emphatically.
The 11.3-acresite, which includes one acre owned by Donald Kramer, a longtime resident of Ballman Avenue, now permits up to five units per acre. Pavlinic is seeking to have it rezoned R-10, allowing up to 10 units per acre.
Pavlinic said he plans to build only eight units per acre, bowing to the neighbors' concerns about the density by agreeing to erect only single houses along Taney Avenue.
The county Office of Planning and Zoning opposes increasing the density, Planner Kevin Dooley said.
State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno and Delegate Joan Cadden, both Democratic leaders in Brooklyn Park, said the community fought for theR-5 limitation in 1989.
When the land was designated R-15 during the county's last comprehensive rezoning, they said, the community mobilized in opposition. The County Council later restored the lot's original zoning.
Dooley said he saw no reason to change the zoning. But Pavlinic
said developing the property under its current restrictions is not economically feasible.
Clift supported him, saying she unsuccessfully tried to sell the site for years. Every buyer was scared off by the R-5 zoning, she said.
Over jeers, she told Wilcoxthat she chose Pavlinic because he has experience building attractive, modern town houses that could be an asset to the community. She said longtime residents might meet new neighbors and make new friends.
"I do not want to leave a legacy behind me of shacks," she said.
None of the neighbors said they would welcome the development, except Patricia Walker, a Brooklyn Park real estate agent. She said her only concern was whether the community would further swell Park Elementary School, which already has more students than its capacity.
Most cheered a sharp comment by Frances Jones, head of the Arundel Improvement Association, who organized several buses to bring protesters to the hearing:
"New blood doesn't necessarily mean that we'll getblue blood."