Hearings On New Village Begin Contentiously

Hundreds Attend Waverly Woods Ii Hearings

March 15, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Debate about whether to allow the county's largest non-Columbia village to be built began last week amid an undercurrent of cool anger.

Two nights of contentious hearings revealed little new about the Waverly Woods II project. The proposed residential, commercial and golfing village would be built on 682 rural acres along Marriottsville Road between Interstate 70 and Route 99.

A standing-room-only crowd of more than 450 people showed up the first night, 128 the next.

Developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. "broughtin everyone who could swing a hammer or a golf club," said opposition leader Jean Iampieri Quattlebaum.

Counted in that number, she said, were about 25 sales agents in Reuwer's real estate company as well as builders and construction workers who do business with him.

Reuwer acknowledged that builders, construction workers and some of his sales people were indeed present. He said they had come on their own without coaxing. They and "at least 60 golfers" turned out because they are "interested, concerned, supportive residents of Howard County," he said.

Opponents wore orange rectangular badges that said, "No." Supporters wore circular tags reading, "Check yes -- Waverly Woods." Most opponents live near the proposed development. Most supporters do not.

Piecemeal zoning cases loosely resemble court cases in that witnesses give testimony and can be cross-examined. In most cases, the atmosphere is casual. On these nights, it was decidedly strict.

When an opponent addressed the first witness, psychiatrist BruceT. Taylor as "Mr. Taylor" during cross-examination, Waverly's attorney objected, saying he was to be called "Dr. Taylor."

Taylor told the board that his family and the other two families owning the Waverly property with him have been in the county for generations. "We have a philosophical compatibility," he said, "and are interested in assuring that the projects we are involved in are quality projects."

The families' objectives, he said, are that Waverly Woods II be a comprehensively balanced, planned community, that it be sensitive to environmental issues, and that it make a positive contribution to the tax base. He said the public golf course designed to wend through the property is coming at an opportune time and will help the local economy.

Zoning board member Paul R. Farragut quoted Planning Board chairman Helen E. Reuther's dissent from the Planning Board's March 3 recommendation that the Waverly project be approved and asked Taylor to respond. Reuther had argued that the project was premature because criteria for so-called mixed-use centers like Waverly have yet to be adopted.

Taylor said he believes the Waverly proposal is flexible enough to comply with future mixed-use requirements, since the project is expected to be built in phases over the next two to three decades.

"You're saying that regulations written later would apply?" Farragut asked.

"Depending upon how they are written, yes," Taylor replied.

During cross-examination of Taylor and the four other witnesses called the first two nights, opponents often put questions in sucha way as to raise points of their own.

"Are you aware there were 3,600 signatures to stop this project?" Quattlebaum asked Taylor. Shelater wanted land planner Frederick D. Jarvis to tell her if he was aware of a 29 percent office vacancy rate in the county. Developers hope the 372-acre business section would be used as headquarters for major corporations.

Farragut asked Jarvis if the overall residential density -- 937 units -- was figured on the basis of residential zoning east of the property. Jarvis said the fact that the proposed density is about the same overall as nearby developments to the east was coincidental. Farragut told Jarvis he wanted to see figures that willguarantee the employment portion balances the residential portion.

Board member Darrel Drown asked Jarvis if any changes were made in the project as a result of community meetings.

"I can't say there were any," Jarvis said.

Just prior to a 10:35 p.m. recess the first night, one of the 185 people who signed up to testify asked when they would have a chance to speak.

Board chairman C. Vernon Gray said that opportunity would come as soon as Waverly finished presenting its witnesses. By midnight Thursday, only five had testified -- Taylor, Jarvis, a golf course architect, a geological engineer and an environmentalist. Wavery attorneys told Gray they plan to call five more witnesses.

Gray said everyone in the audience who signed up would be allowed to testify at future hearings. No written testimony would be accepted, he said, because dissenters would have no chance to cross-examine it.

The board recessed the hearing until April, leaving the date unspecified.

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