Unsigned letter about Placid Drive extension plans stirs residents

October 18, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

If the county extends Placid Drive, it might as well change the road's name, too.

Residents of Strawbridge Estates say they're afraid that extending the quiet country road to Hodges Road will make Placid Drive a thoroughfare for motorists heading to Route 32 near Freedom Elementary School.

Homeowners in the self-contained community, which was built in the early 1970s, have received an unsigned letter that details county plans to extend the entry road in their development through a heavily wooded watershed area and west to Hodges Road.

The planned extension would give the many new homes along Hodges Road easier access to Route 32. With no outlet at the north end of Hodges, motorists must now drive south to Bartholow Road and follow it or Johnsville Road to Route 32.

The letter writer asks neighbors "to insist the project be made public" and "to demand the [county] department of planning be directed to stop any further attempts to force the destruction of woodland, stream and our community."

The proposed extension has been part of the county master plan for South Carroll for 17 years.

"I was aware of those plans when I moved here 15 years ago, but I haven't heard a word about them since," said Robert C. Felter, whose home at the west end of Placid Drive adjoins a heavily wooded area. "That road would mean continuous traffic, and I would fight it every way I can."

William A. Waters, his neighbor, said he would "lobby the county commissioners" to change the plan to extend Placid Drive. The "new road for convenience" would benefit only homeowners in the subdivisions along Hodges Road, saving motorists about half a mile in their trips to Route 32, he said. He also is concerned with the effect of road construction on a stream that flows north across the property to Liberty Reservoir.

"The extension would go through and disrupt a watershed," Mr. Waters said. "It would also have a definite impact on Liberty Reservoir. At some point in time, we can't infringe on the reservoir further."

S. Walter Ernst, a Placid Drive resident for 22 years and the last president of the now-inactive neighborhood association, said he was told years ago the county would never carry out the extension because of the expense involved in constructing a bridge over the stream.

"People already zoom in here thinking it's a through street," said Mr. Ernst, who said many drivers ignore the posted 25-mph limit. "If Placid Drive is extended, it will be a thoroughfare with trucks and everything else."

Increased traffic might pose a danger to the many Freedom Elementary students who walk along the road to the school on Route 32.

Mr. Ernst said he hoped Strawbridge residents would organize their opposition to the plan, but he wondered how effective it would be.

"The county totally disregards what people want and does what it wants," he said.

Helen Spinelli, county planner, said the extension has been in the master plan since 1977.

"The master plan determined the area would need a connection to get to Route 32," she said. "The extension is definitely scheduled."

Placid Drive was not built as a cul-de-sac. It ends in a T-turn, she said, and was always meant to connect with Hodges. It would remain a local street, not a collector road, she said. No road-widening is planned.

"The crossing will be as narrow as possible because of the stream," she said. "The stream is badly degraded now. The county hopes to improve it during construction."

But Neil Ridgely, program manager for the county division of landscape and forest conservation, said the 30-foot-wide road extension "doesn't warrant the degradation to the woods and stream."

"I cannot justify the removal of forests for the extension of Placid Drive," he said.

Macks Homes, a development company based in Owings Mills, plans to build Stone Manor, an 89-home subdivision on 57 acres along Hodges Road. The developer would be responsible for road construction.

Plans for Stone Manor are working their way through the review process, Ms. Spinelli said.

"It's months, if not a year away, from approval," she said.

Mr. Ridgely called Strawbridge Estates "one of the nicer, established subdivisions in the county. Making the road link will change the character of the neighborhood."

The road extension will ultimately be reviewed by the county commissioners.

Ms. Spinelli said the extension will improve the area and will be helpful to children, once a new neighborhood park opens on Hodges Road next year.

"We want people to be able to circulate in their neighborhoods, using local streets, without going onto major roads," she said.

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