Marriottsville rezoning backer provokes angry outbursts at hearing

September 06, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Testimony during the rezoning hearing for a proposed 682-acre residential, commercial and golfing village in Marriottsville took a bitter tone Wednesday when one supporter insulted project opponents.

"I have yet to hear one sensible, intelligent question from the opposition," said Joe Loftus of Columbia, a golfer and the owner of a computer business that serves the construction industry.

His testimony was heckled and followed up by bitter cross-examination by opponents of the Waverly Woods II project.

About 50 people, primarily opponents of the project, attended the sixth night of hearings. The petition would change zoning for 3-acre residential lots to a mix of commercial and higher-density residential zoning.

The changes would allow the development, over 30 years, of 1.7 million square feet of office space and 937 houses and apartments around an 18-hole public golf course.

Mr. Loftus said that if everyone had the same mind-set as Waverly opponents when Columbia was proposed in the mid-1960s, it never would have been built.

"It wasn't built by a group that said, 'I'm going to build a moat around my community, I'm going to build a moat around my mind,' " he said.

"How dare you! We are trying to protect our children!" said an angry Janet Eaton of Marriottsville. Several times Mrs. Eaton has raised the issue of future traffic deaths at Marriottsville Road and Route 99, which borders the proposed project.

Elaine Zimmerman of Woodstock also responded.

"No citizen of this country has a right to verbally abuse another citizen of this country. This gentleman has been allowed to do that for five minutes," she said.

Testimony began with the developer's final expert witness, land planner Frederick D. Jarvis of the Columbia-based LDR International.

Much of Mr. Jarvis' testimony dealt with ways the neighborhood had changed since the last comprehensive rezoning in 1985. That or a mistake in zoning must be proven if a zoning change is to be granted.

Mr. Jarvis said the neighborhood had changed in a variety of ways, including the addition of sewer and water service and rezonings that allowed homes to be built on smaller parcels. About 1,500 homes have been added since 1985, representing a 150-percent increase.

His testimony was followed by six golfers, including Mr. Loftus, who all spoke of the need for golf courses in the county.

Donald Dunn, president of the Howard County Golfers Association and chairman of the Hobbit's Glen Golf Committee, said the development would bring more affordable homes to an area dominated by $200,000, three-acre lots.

"I want my children and grandchildren to have adequate facilities, including recreational facilities," Mr. Dunn said.

The county would also benefit from owning and operating the proposed golf course the developer plans to build, he testified.

"Revenue leaves this county every year and goes to other counties for golfing," Mr. Dunn said. The county's only public course is Willow Springs, and members of courses elsewhere, such as Diamond Ridge in Baltimore County, are considering banning non-resident golfers, he said.

"The only other place where a golfer could reasonably expect to get tee time would be out of this state," Mr. Dunn said.

Benjamin Williams said he favored the project because it would bring something good for the first time to his small neighborhood Marriottsville.

In the past, the only attention his neighborhood got was as a site for the county's Alpha Ridge Landfill, which was followed by contaminated water and cancer deaths, Mr. Williams said. The Waverly Woods II project would bring needed services, along with more affordable housing and jobs,he added.

The hearing is set to resume Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the county office building. About 170 area residents are signed up to testify, along with three to five expert witnesses against the project, said Susan Gray, a growth-control advocate who is helping present the opposition's case.

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