UNION BRIDGE — Eight area residents spent Saturday polling their neighbors, asking for opinions on the annexation of the 110-acre Phillips property.
Poll organizers said of the 115 town residents contacted, 61 said they were against the annexation, 19 favored it and 15 said they had no opinion. Twenty people did not want to participate.
Although the rainy day before Easter was not the ideal time for the door-to-door survey, the poll takers said they wanted to complete their work before Thursday -- the last day to submit written commentsfollowing an April 13 public hearing on annexing the site, north of here.
The survey was taken to give the council an accurate idea oftown sentiments, said pollster Sam Hostetter, who owns a business here. Organizers listed the addresses of those responding and asked them to sign their comments. They did not poll members of the Town Council or Planning Commission.
Survey results and comments, minus the signatures, were delivered Tuesday to Mayor Perry L. Jones, who said he would forward copies to council members. He said voting on the annexation would probably be postponed until the May session.
Although the mayor said he was not surprised at the results, he feels much of the opposition stems from misinformation. He said residents mistakenly fear they will bear the cost of utilities.
"This will be a self-supporting development; it will pay for its own water and sewer," said the mayor. "The town is going to change whether we annex or not. Why not annex and have a tax base as well as a say in how it develops?"
After several public hearings, during which many expressed opposition to a development that could double the current population of 917, the Town Council will soon vote on the proposal.
"We wanted the voice of the townspeople to be heard, before that vote takes place," said Hostetter. "We made a good faith effort and went door to door,trying to cover as much of the town as possible. We got a good random selection."
If annexed, developers plan to build about 400 houses, or about four units per acre. If the land remains within county zoning regulations, only about half that number of houses could be built.
"For one reason or another, people don't always speak up at public meetings," Hostetter said. "I wasn't surprised so many are overwhelmingly against developing the town more. I hope this makes the council listen."
Many poll respondents apparently feared the adverse effects of large-scale development, including the strain on town utilities, fire and police protection.
"I want Union Bridge to stay thesmall town it is," said one resident. "More than 400 houses would change the town too much."
Others said too few would benefit from the annexation and that too many of their questions remain unanswered.
"Many people said they have seen what heavy growth has done to Westminster and they want no parts of it," said Hostetter.