A group opposing plans to build a $5 million foster-care complex forabused children near Fallston will take its case next month to the County Council, which also sits as the Board of Zoning Appeals.
At issue is the United Methodist Board of Child Care's proposal to buildfive cottages on 26 acres at Harford and Reckord roads. The non-profit agency wants to care for up to 60 abused and neglected children between the ages of 2 and 12, as well as some older siblings.
The agency won approval in February from William F. Casey, a county zoning hearing examiner, to proceed with its plans, provided it meets 15 conditions.
The appeal by members of the Fallston Meadows Community Association is to be heard at 7 p.m. April 7, in council chambers in the County Courthouse in Bel Air.
Association members have strongly opposed the project, citing traffic and safety concerns, as well as potential ground water and sewage problems. The area is notserved by public water or sewer.
"We're not heathens. We're not insensitive to the needs of abused and neglected children, but we're looking at an area that just can't support the intensity of use they're proposing," said Salvatore Glorioso, who with his wife, Joyce, has fought hard against the shelter.
The Gloriosos, members of the Fallston Meadows Homeowners Association, live across the street from theproposed complex.
Chief among the concerns of area homeowners is the Board of Child Care's plan to draw up to 6,500 gallons of ground water a day; the agency has a state permit allowing it to do so. Neighbors testified at several public hearings that they are worried shallow wells in the area could run dry if the shelter uses that much water.
"I think we could have lived with the thing if there were onlytwo or three cottages and a cap of 30 children," said Glorioso.
"We really think Mr. Casey let us down."
Members of the community association have expressed concerns about the high volume of traffic along Harford Road near Reckord Road.
Some said they are worried because school-age children staying at the foster-care complex would likely be attending Youth's Benefit Elementary School, which is alreadyover capacity.
In approving the foster-care complex, Casey said the shelter can accept no more than 60 children.
The center only could accept teen-agers accompanying a sibling under 12, Casey said. All other children must be 12 or younger.
Other conditions include widening Reckord Road to 24 feet between the access drive to the complex and the intersection at Harford Road; grading the intersection area to improve sight distance, and constructing an underground water storage tank for fire safety.
Claude Libis, executive director of the Board of Child Care, said he was pleased with Casey's decision and that the agency would make the necessary improvements.
"We're justawaiting the decision of the County Council and (depending) on theirwisdom to do the right thing," Libis said.
Glorioso said that if his group loses the appeal, it will take the case to Harford Circuit Court, the next step in the appeals process.
"And if we can't win a complete denial, we will push for at least more severe restrictions," Glorioso said.