"It's taken a long time. We don't keep records, but, yeah, it's probably the longest," said Timothy Kotrocko, deputy zoning commissioner, who has had to sit through the sessions.
As the strategies have failed to win over the other side, emotions have become more heated.
Coalition members have shouted to have their say at meetings, and have accused St. Timothy's of creating "a huge horrible mess" and "fouling the nest." One witness at a landmarks' commission meeting wept over the destruction the development would bring.
Those on St. Timothy's side say the fight has become personal and mean-spirited, solidifying an affluent, committed community against the quiet school it once considered a friend and an asset.
Accusations of influence, incompetence, intransigence and insensitivity are heard from both corners, and opponents of the project have even taken to calling it Bridlegate.
"It's the most acrimonious development plan I've been involved in," said G. Scott Barhight, the school's attorney and a veteran of some of the county's most hotly contested development battles. "The level of emotion, the level of venom, the outright assertions of misconduct, the attacks on individuals have made it very personal."
Opponents say they are only trying to save Green Spring Valley and the character of their community. "If they are going to go ahead and do it, they had better do it right, and they haven't done it right yet," said John Beckley, whose father's home abuts the proposed development on the south side.
In the hearing-officer's hearings that have stretched across three months, the coalition has asserted that the development plan is heavily flawed, not even adhering to the county's development code in some respects.
Coalition lawyer J. Carroll Holzer has repeatedly asked Kotrocko to reject, or at least postpone, consideration of the plan.
But Kotrocko has not agreed, so Holzer has tried to show flaws in the plans during the public hearings Kotrocko chairs.
Perhaps the most serious is a stream and wetlands that don't appear on the development plan, but that were verified by a county official sent to inspect the property during the on-going hearings.
Barhight said the stream was not there in 1995 or 1996.
Wrong, residents say. The stream has been there 20 years, and never run dry.
There has also been detailed sparring over fire hydrants, water run-off, the length of roads and which trees will go and which will stay.
Martin questions the civic-mindedness of St. Timothy's opponents. "I think it's important to sort out the self-interest of the people in the opposition," he asserted, referring to spoiled scenery and what they see as diminished property values.
"For at least the core of the group that's against it, they are largely affluent and they have a pretty nice life. They are very unhappy," said Martin. "I hate to see that confused with community."
Holzer does not deny that his clients have a personal interest in health, safety and property issues, but "this group goes beyond what some of my other clients would be doing for the good of the valley," he said. "They do have legitimate concerns about the preservation of the valley."
And they also have staying power. "This group doesn't have any intention of quitting," said Beckley.
St. Timothy's, too, seems to have hunkered down. "The school has the ability to fight pretty much indefinitely," said Martin. "The board is in it for the long haul."
And that kind of determination "is what makes a good fight," conceded Beckley.
Pub Date: 7/14/97