Residents who live near the proposed site for a foster care complex south of Fallston say controversy over whether the project should be built has divided their hearts, homes and community.
Tomorrow night, a county zoning hearing examiner will conduct a sixth, and possibly final, public hearing on the United Methodist Board of Child Care'sproposal to build a $5 million foster home at Harford and Reckord roads.
"It's been a very delicate issue for us," said Joyce Glorioso, who has been a vocal opponent of the project, as has her husband, Salvatore.
"Sal and I have have sat up half the night and had long talks about it," she said.
"It's difficult to handle the fact that I'mup fighting for this, and a child may have to stay in a situation where they're abused because of it."
The Board of Child Care has proposed building a foster home center for up to 60 children, ages 2 through 12, and some teen siblings who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect.
The board wants to build five cottages on the 26-acre property. The non-profit agency is seeking a zoning exception because the land is zoned for agricultural use.
The Gloriosos and some other members of the Fallston Meadows Community Association have opposed the proposed project, saying they are concerned about traffic and safety issues, how their ground water would be affected and if the project would cause sewage drainage problems.
"It's not so much that we're divided as a community as that we're dividedin our hearts. We're not just a bunch of unfeeling, uncaring monsters," Joyce Glorioso said.
"It's not the 'not-in-my-back-yard' syndrome. With this water situation, I'm frankly worried."
But David Sewell, who lives four-tenths of a mile from the proposed facility, said he supports the proposal and isn't worried about the water supply.
The neighborhood opposition has troubled him, he said.
"I wouldhope they would step back and take a look and see what's in their hearts," said Sewell. "But they have a right to their thoughts, and I have a right to my opinions."
Other area residents are worried about how the children will be supervised and point to area dangers.
Tim Murphy, a Harford Road resident who lives near the proposed site, said he's worried that a nearby stream, the Little Gunpowder, and abandoned mill buildings could could present dangers to wandering or runaway children. He, too, has had trouble deciding what stand to take on the issue.
"The arguments we've had in our own home, well, it's been terrible trying to make a decision about who is right," Murphy said. "Raising teens or kids by the numbers is tough, but I don't think it's the project we've been led to believe it is."
He's among area residents who would like the proposal scaled down.
Paula Webb, for example, is one of only a few Methodists who publicly oppose the project. She and her husband, Tom, are members of Fallston United Methodist Church, but they have opposed the project because they are concerned about the effect the facility will have on area ground-water supplies.
"Five years ago, we were down at my husband's Methodist church hanging money on the Board of Child Care tree," she said. "We didn't feel good about fighting against the project."
However, Webbsaid that after visiting a similar facility operated by the Board ofChild Care on Gaither Road in Randallstown, she was dismayed to see how "commercial-looking" the buildings were.
"And I'm concerned about the water because of my parents," she said. "Last summer we had to run a hose down from my brother's house so they could have water because the water level in their well was so low. I wish they would do (the project) on a smaller scale."
Eleanor Packard, a Board of Child Care member who lives near the agency's property at Harford and Reckord roads, said she tries to understand neighbors' opposition.
"I think it's typical of the resistance to any zoning change," said Packard. "When Jones Trucking Co. wanted to expand about 15 or more years ago, the neighbors were every bit as riled up."
Area residents concern about traffic, water use and sewage drainage are legitimate, she said.
"We're handling it," Packard said of neighborhood opposition. "We can deal with this civilly. But I have to question if the reasons they are giving are the real reasons they oppose the project."
A sixth public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow at the County Council chambers, Level A of the County Courthouse inBel Air.
PROPOSED FOSTER CARE HOME: QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
How many children would be served?
60 maximum; 12 children in each of five cottages.
What would be the ages of children served?
Ages 2-12. Teen siblings up to age 17, in some cases, would also be allowed in an effort to keep families together. The median age would be 7 to 8years old.
How many supervisors would watch the children?