Laurel neighbors aren't wild about Patuxent Springs

July 15, 1992|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Howard County's first urban wildlife sanctuary, designed as a pastoral setting for animals and humans alike, has instead annoyed residents of a nearby Laurel neighborhood.

Hillcrest Heights residents say Patuxent Springs, a 70-lot residential community, has been a constant source of irritation. The 43-acre site features indigenous plants and shrubs, bird houses and storm water retention ponds.

"There's this tremendous racket from back there," John Lind said of frogs who live near the retention ponds. "They're up at night, and when it does rain they really seem to liven up."

Lois Mahony said frogs and mosquitoes have chased her from her backyard.

"You can't go out in the backyard anymore," said Ms. Mahony, a 27-year resident, who said "frogs were a rarity" before the retention ponds were dug.

Neighbors have also complained to county officials that water from a retention pond behind their homes has flooded their yards during storms.

"After heavy rains I can't hang my clothes," said Marion O'Connor, a neighborhood resident for the past two years.

Ms. Mahony, who took photos of water damage to her property in May, said the water leaves shallow gullies in her backyard after storms. She said she is afraid the water will erode the soil and cause trees to fall over.

"It comes down the hill onto the back of our property," said Ms. Mahony, who says she is considering legal action.

But county public works officials, who inspected the sites last week, say the ponds are not in violation of any laws. "We found no problems at the time," said Andrew Danecker, the county's chief of construction and inspection.

Developers say the soggy conditions are temporary. A home will be built on the offending pond when all construction is complete in 1993, said Douglas Shipe, vice president of Winchester Homes Inc., Patuxent Springs' developer.

Christopher Zell, vice president of sales and marketing for Winchester Homes, defended the development in a prepared statement.

"Every time we have received a complaint from a resident in the adjoining community, Hillcrest, we have met with Howard County officials at the site. And, in every instance, these officials have given Winchester Homes a clean bill of health. We continue to monitor the situation, as is appropriate, and will work with the county should any problems arise."

Patuxent Springs was designated as an urban wildlife sanctuary by the National Institute for Urban Wildlife in Columbia. The sanctuary is designed to attract cottontail rabbits, squirrels, deer, birds and other wildlife.

Lowell Adams, vice president of research for the institute, said residents' complaints stem from a natural dislike of change.

"That's a typical reaction," Mr. Adams said. "People don't like it when a new road is built or a new shopping center is built.

"We're trying to minimize the detrimental aspects of development. That's where we're coming from."

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