Clarksville residents are expected to present opposing views to the Howard County Council tonight about the prospect of bring county water lines to the area.
Some have contaminated wells and want the county to provide them with water and sewer service. Others say the well water isn't all that bad. They fear that county water and sewer service will lead to increased development, threatening their bucolic style of life.
"I understand and share their concerns about increased development," said the Rev. Jeffrey Dauses of St. Louis Roman Catholic Church. "But the primary issue is safety and health. We plan to ask again [at tonight's 8 o'clock public hearing] for public water."
The church's wells, which serve 11,000 people on Sundays, 350 school children from kindergarten to the eighth grade on weekdays, and 700 children on Saturdays, are contaminated.
Although water from the wells is filtered, there is a psychological fear about drinking it nonetheless, Father Dauses said. "You know you're drinking contaminated water and the background, underlying fear is, 'What if the filtration system is not working or breaks down?' "
The church and all the commercial properties on 123 acres west of Route 108 in Clarksville would receive county water and sewer service under an amendment to the General Plan being considered tonight by the County Council. The amendment also calls for water and sewer service to 23 acres in the Burleigh Manor subdivision west of Centennial Lane and 2,800 acres surrounding the county's Alpha Ridge landfill.
John W. Taylor, a Highland activist who has opposed any change from rural to more intense zoning, fears the water and sewer amendment will cause Clarksville and Highland to become thickly populated within 10 years. He wants the council to table the general plan amendment until something else can be worked out.
"I would never put growth control in front of people's health," Mr. Taylor said. "But I think we can have both." Mr. Taylor wants residents to sit down with representatives of the county, the church and the Clarksville business community "to explore alternatives."
Among the alternatives Mr. Taylor would like the county to explore is bringing water only, not sewer service, to the area. Continued dependence on septic systems may be a deterrent to increased development, he said.
"A delay means more of a wait for safe water," Father Dauses said. "The question is, 'Why delay?' The only reason is to defeat it. This is a wonderful community and I don't like being put in this position, but our overriding concern is safety."
Tempers flared occasionally last week at a meeting Mr. Taylor called to discuss the issue after distributing 1,000 fliers to area residents, warning them of the dangers of extending county water and sewer service into Clarksville.
"We're trying very hard to keep the lines of communication open," Mr. Taylor said. "This is not citizens against the business community. If we could have a legitimate meeting of the minds between people of diverse interests, our mutual success in Clarksville could become a model for success elsewhere."
Mr. Taylor said that if a group of residents, county officials, business people and church leaders decided that the best solution is to bring water and sewer to the area at the risk of increased development, the decision "would be easier to live with."
The council is scheduled to vote on the water resolution Thursday night.