Gathering against growth turns into pep rally Residents to fight zoning changes

February 09, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

More than 70 people met last night in the cafeteria at Clarksville Elementary School to develop strategies for convincing the County Council that there is already enough development in southeastern Howard County.

The council, sitting as the Zoning Board, will conduct hearings tonight and tomorrow night on changes requested by developers and property owners in the comprehensive rezoning of eastern Howard County.

Although last night's meeting was billed as an informational session for citizens opposed to increasing growth, it quickly became a pep rally during questions and answers.

Fighting proposed zoning changes in Clarksville, Fulton, Highland, and northern Laurel "is probably going to get dirty, and nasty and somewhat expensive," said Highland resident Susan Gray.

Ms. Gray recently played a leading role in the unsuccessful effort to stop Waverly Woods II, a new golfing, commercial and residential village to be built across from the county landfill.

The Dec. 21 Zoning Board decision allowing the Waverly Woods II property to be rezoned for the new development "is going to be definitely appealed," Ms. Gray said. "What happens in Waverly is going to be indicative elsewhere." She urged those present to "open up your pocketbooks" to help fund the Waverly appeal.

"You could reverse this" and other attempted rezonings to bring more apartments, town houses and businesses to the county, Ms. Gray said. Prince George's and Montgomery counties have had "down-zonings" in recent years, in which the permissible density for new development is reduced.

Howard County could do the same, she said. "We're going one way; everybody else is going another way."

Although many seemed to agree with the characterization by one member of the audience that council members "are deaf and have got their mind set" and the rezonings "are going to go down no matter what we do," others said the fight has only begun.

"I hope people would come down there for the hearing" tonight and tomorrow night, said Ridgely Jones, a farmer and longtime county resident. "It's true the process has gotten so complicated, you practically have to be an expert. But there is nothing wrong with your saying you're opposed to this. Are you going to go to a little trouble [to testify], or are you going to stick your tail between your legs and let the developers take over?" he said.

"It makes [the council's] job a lot easier if they have an empty hearing room," said John W. Taylor, president of Howard Countians for Responsible Growth, the civic group that planned last night's rally. "Show up and bring three or four other people with you," he said. "We do hope you'll show up."

Over the weekend, Mr. Taylor's group hand-delivered 2,000 fliers to residents in the Clarksville, Fulton, Highland and northern Laurel. The fliers billed the meeting as an opportunity to discuss proposed area rezonings and a local airport study.

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