Development frustrates North Laurel residents

October 07, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Frustrations over development and increasing traffic were pushing David and Debbie O'Neil toward leaving North Laurel. Then Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke said he wanted to build a 78,600-seat stadium near their neighborhood.

"That was the last straw," Ms. O'Neil said.

This week, bulldozers started rumbling behind the O'Neil house, clearing away their wooded view and making room for dozens of homes. "I know [development] is happening everywhere, but it seems to be worse here," Ms. O'Neil said.

The O'Neils, whose two children attend crowded Laurel Woods Elementary School, moved to North Laurel eight years ago, when "it was much quieter and peaceful."

"It seems ridiculous to build a stadium in a residential area when they're building more residences here," Ms. O'Neil said.

Other residents, such as Tom Flynn, also talk about moving, especially if Mr. Cooke builds his stadium. The site is on the Anne Arundel County side of Laurel, minutes away from their neighborhood.

"I certainly would consider moving if the stadium went there," said Mr. Flynn, vice president of the North Laurel Civic Association.

For now, Mr. Flynn, who has lived in North Laurel since 1981, is hunkering down to fight the Redskins. Few are optimistic that the neighborhood can stop Mr. Cooke.

Residents said they have had minimal success in stopping development and reducing traffic congestion and school crowding.

"We are the forgotten section of the county," said North Laurel resident Donna Thewes.

Since the late 1980s, North Laurel residents have pleaded with their government representatives to ease the burden on the local elementary school. Laurel Woods Elementary is slightly more than 100 students over its capacity of 544 students.

The school system responded with three portable classrooms that can accommodate 25 students each and has promised to put a new elementary school in the area. But it won't be built until 1998.

To keep people from speeding through the neighborhood and to deter nonresidents from using the area as a shortcut from U.S. 1 to Interstate 95, the county put speed bumps on local roads.

But with the addition of 106 homes, traffic and school crowding problems continue.

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