Homeowners who may lose their homes to Route 100 have gone on the offensive, taking their congressman and other officials to the heart ofthe issue -- the Deep Run stream -- and offering an alternative thathas already drawn opposition from neighboring communities.
By federal standards, the stream is such a valuable ecological resource that Route 100, a planned highway connecting U.S. 29 in Ellicott City toAnne Arundel County, must be diverted through a segment of Hunt Country Estates to save 2.55 acres of the stream's wetlands.
Under the state's plan, two homes would have to be demolished. The state has offered to buy them and six others that will be close to the highway.
About 50 residents presented Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-3rd, State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff and regulatory officialsfrom the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency with a plan of their own Saturday.
The residents' plan, drawn with the help of two volunteer engineers, would take the road almost entirely away from Deep Run. But it also would require demolishing at least four houses along Route 108 and would cut off direct access to Route 108 for the Villages of Montgomery Run condominiums and the new Ashton Woods apartment complex.
Valerie McGuire, who lives in Hunt Country Estates and acted ashost at the Nov. 24 stream walk, said she felt people living in houses would be more willing to move because their houses are already stuck between Route 108 and the apartment buildings.
But Retha Gray, 79, who lives in the path of Route 100 under the Hunt Country proposal, said she had no intention of leaving her home of more than 50 years.
"Would you feel the same if you had lived here practically all your married life? Would you feel like giving it up?" she asked. "After you've done work on your home and everything, it just don't make sense. I think a lot of people around here will really kick against it."
Thomas McGlone, president of one of two condominium associations representing Montgomery Run's more than 550 occupied units, said heplans to organize his association against the proposal.
"It's horrible that we weren't even contacted or invited to attend this," McGlone said. "There's no way possible that they're going to be able to run a six-lane highway through the front of this community," he added,saying there is not enough room between the condominiums and Route 108.
Kim D. Abramson, president of Montgomery Run's other half, pointed out that developer Macks & Macks had a signed agreement on the highway's location and said "we will do whatever is necessary to protect our homes and investments."
Mark Crampton, the State Highway Administration's project engineer for designing the highway, said, "We're looking at something that goes south toward 108 that's very similar to what the citizens proposed." Crampton said the SHA also is studying the impact on wetlands of two other proposals that would run nearHunt Country, but not threaten homes.
County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, whose council district includes all the communities involved, said, "Any route you take is going to be fraught with a lot of pitfalls. It's a very difficult decision that we're going to have to make.
"I understand that you'd have to destroy about three to fourhouses," he added. "In the best of all possible worlds, you'd want to have a routing system that doesn't destroy homes."
The 50 or so Hunt Country Estates residents presented the plan after walking to the stream with 14 officials, including Gray and state delegates John Morgan, Martin Madden, both R-13B, and state Sen. Thomas Yeager, D-13.
"I think we have their attention now," said McGuire, who added that she was "very encouraged" by their reactions.
Representatives from the Fish and Wildlife Service and EPA were pleased that the community's proposal took the highway away from the wetlands, as the stateproposal would do.
Cardin said he was pleased that he could get federal authorities out to talk to residents, and said there was a "real willingness on behalf of all the parties to look at all the options."
"The alternative that the community presented needs to be reviewed by other communities," he added.
Cardin said that if the state, county and the communities affected by the road can agree on an alternative, his office could act as a conduit for information to speedthe wetlands approval process.
"Fairness hasn't been handed our way since the beginning," McGuire said. "I really think they (politicians) need to open their eyes and review the whole situation again."
The highway has a 30-year history of being added and removed from county plans, finally to be revived in 1985.
When the development firm of Macks & Macks discovered the road would bisect its future Montgomery Run development, it asked for County Council support of a northern shift.
Because the developer was building affordable housing,the council agreed to recommend shifting the roadway 1,240 feet north, which the SHA agreed to do in exchange for Macks property for Route 100 right-of-way.
Gray said Hunt Country Estates was not shown on the county planning map used by the council.