Newsletter Blasts Halle Cos. For Association Coup

Company-backed Candidates Took Control Legally

December 04, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

A Seven Oaks resident who publishes a community news letter with hiswife has written a column critical of the way the Halle Cos. backed several candidates during last month's Odenton Improvement Association election.

Ron Watts said yesterday that the editorial, "GOIA Election Brought Out the Worst in Halle," reflects the sentiments of several residents who have contacted him in recent weeks.

"I think they felt that what Halle did wasn't right," said Watts,who along with his wife, Adrienne, publishes several monthly news letters, including ones distributed in their home community of Seven Oaks and a neighboring community, Piney Orchard.

The editorial, subtitled, "One person's opinion," criticizes the developer for getting immersed in local politics.

"Don't allow the developers to assume that the community's relative silence means that we're always satisfied with their course of actions," wrote Watts, who works in the Baltimore Sun's circulation department.

The Silver Spring-based developer drew criticism last month when it publicly backed Mary Chewning forpresident and encouraged three other people to run.

What normallyis a straightforward election attracting 30 or 35 voters turned intoa packed house at the Odenton Fire Hall, withnearly half the 48 people who signed up as new members that night coming from outside the county.

Many of the new members work for the Halle Cos., which is building a 4,700-unit development in Odenton and is locked in battles with the county in and out of court over paying for schools and building tennis courts.

The night before the election, company officialswho serve on the board of the Seven Oaks Home Owners Association sent out an unsigned flier offering their own slate of candidates.

Chewning won the presidency by two votes over Sally Shoemaker, who was supported by the improvement's association's board of directors.

Two other people supported by Halle and asked to run by company officials also won. One was elected secretary, the other gained a spot on the board.

"Though (Halle officials) thought they were acting in the best interest of Seven Oaks residents, (their) actions came across to the community with as much tact as a third-grade class bully showson the playground," Watts wrote.

Stephen N. Fleischman, vice president of Halle, said community residents he has talked to agreed withthe developer that the improvement association, headed the last two years by Pat Wellford, espoused personal feelings without a consensusfrom residents.

"People are eager to know what's going on," Fleischman said yesterday. He said he would comment on the article at tonight's meeting of the Seven Oaks Home Owners Association, which he chairs. "Let the general consensus make the decisions instead of the chosen few."

Fleischman has said Wellford concentrated too much on development issues and not enough on other concerns. He also has said that she and Shoemaker have testified on issues without consulting thegeneral membership.

But Watts credits the improvement associationwith fighting proposed adult peep shows.

"Of course, we now have two adult book and video stores on Route 175 at the entrance to SevenOaks," he said. "That can't be helping sell more land or homes for Halle, but the company doesn't seem overly interested."

Fleischman said he has talked to several county officials and residents about the election. "I don't think anybody has a problem with it."

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