Residents of Gray Rock Farms and Dorsey Hall are vowing to continue their fight against a plan to link their neighborhoods by connecting two segments of Gray Rock Drive.
In a crowded meeting of the two communities last week, county officials offered to build traffic circles that would slow traffic along the completed road, but residents rejected the compromise and may get no speed controls as a result.
The traffic circle idea, presented Wednesday at a Dunloggin Middle School cafeteria filled with residents of the communities, is a "reasonable alternative" to not connecting the road, said County Councilman Darrell Drown, R-2nd, who organized the meeting.
But Irwin Hosea, president of the Gray Rock Drive Committee, said the communities will accept nothing less than what they have now.
"We think opening of the road would create horrible traffic and terrible safety problems for hundreds of school-age children . . . who have to cross to road to get to Northfield Elementary," he said.
The connection wouldalso "exacerbate an already horrible situation at the intersection of Gray Rock and Columbia Road," he added.
"If they wanted to do something for traffic, they could put some traffic circles on Columbia Road, where we already had a serious accident last summer."
The committee has been fighting the connection of the northern end of Gray Rock Drive, which serves the Gray Rock Farms neighborhood and emptiesonto Frederick Road, and the southern end, which serves Dorsey Hall and empties onto Columbia Road. So far, it has cost the committee nearly $40,000 in legal fees.
The ends of each segment are within sight of each other, and county regulations require the developer of Gray Rock Farms, Miller Land Co. of Ellicott City, to build the 1,135-foot connection as part of its final phase of development on Gray Rock.The connection was approved last summer by county planners, who are waiting for the developer to submit final plans.
Construction cannot begin until final approval of those plans, which could take six months, said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the county's planning and zoning department.
Hosea said the Gray Rock Drive Committee will fight the connection at every step of the process.
County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he is sympathetic to the two communities' concerns, but "it's a County Council decision, and you need three votes to do it, and there's no way I can stop opening it."
Ecker did, however, order traffic engineers to come up with a way to alleviate the feared traffic problems along Gray Rock, and they proposed traffic circles.
"The communities are only interested in one thing, and that's stopping Gray Rock Drive," Hosea said. "They're not interested in getting two (circles) now and four if the road is connected."
Edward Walter, chief of the county's traffic engineering division, attempted to explain the concept to the Gray Rock Drive residents at the meeting but never finished.
"They didn't want to talk about it. They didn't want to talk about anything except no Gray Rock Drive connection, which is unfortunate."
Hosea criticized Drown for switching his position on the issue. Before his election to the council last year, Drown opposed the connection, but he later changed his mind.
Drown said, "votes or no, you've got to do what's right for the whole community."
When he looked at the "big picture" of how the connection would relieve traffic in other communities, Drown said he had to change his position.
Carl Balser, county chief of comprehensive and transportation
planning, said the Gray Rock connection is needed to relieve north-south residential traffic along St. John's Lane, Font Hill Drive and Centennial Lane.
The connection would also save money, time and pollution by allowing for more efficient school bus and mail delivery routes, and would decrease response time for police, fire and rescue vehicles, Balser said.
Balser also said the connection was on county general plans as early as 1970, before the two communities were built.
"If they didn't want to buy their houses with it on the general plan," Drown said, "then they shouldn't havebought them."
Walter explained that the county has never used circles to discourage through traffic, but "they've been used very successfully in several locations in Montgomery County, and they're wildlypopular in Seattle, Wash."
The initial plans were to place two circles at intersections near Columbia Road, two near Frederick Road and two on the unbuilt connector road.
Engineers would later add four more for a total of 10 to further slow traffic, Walter explained.