Oella vote could be crucial to Patapsco greenway plan

Residents decide tonight whether to join project

May 12, 1999|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

The Patapsco Heritage Greenway faces a crucial hurdle tonight as Oella residents vote on whether they want to be part of the project, which would link the Patapsco Valley State Park to the cultural and economic resources of the surrounding towns.

Charles L. Wagandt, a developer who revitalized Oella and past president of the greenway planning committee, called the decision "significant" but declined to say whether a rejection would destroy the project, which he and others have worked on for four years.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said yesterday. "Obviously, I'm committed to the project and concerned."

Relay/St. Denis residents voted this year not to be part of the greenway because they fear it will harm the environment and bring too many tourists to their quiet neighborhood.

Oella's vote could have more significance because of its location across the Patapsco River from Ellicott City, an important hub in greenway plans.

If Oella votes against being part of the project, that would leave two towns, Elkridge and Ellicott City, in the greenway.

Elkridge residents, who have expressed concerns about the project, might vote at their May 27 community meeting, said Kevin Doyle, president of the Elkridge Community Association. Representatives from Ellicott City have said they support the greenway, but some residents have expressed reservations.

Jay Patel, president of the Greater Oella Community Association, said about 850 people received the latest newsletter advertising the meeting and containing viewpoints of project supporters and opponents.

Patel said he expects at least 200 people to attend the meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. at the Westchester Community Center, 2414 Westchester Ave.

"Personally, I think it might come out positive," said Patel, who owns a general store in Oella and knows many residents who live in the historic mill town.

But Geoff Baker, vice president of the Oella Homeowners Association, said, "I think the bulk of the people have reservations."

The latest newsletter listed pros and cons of the project. Benefits included increased recreational facilities, higher property values and more business opportunities. Drawbacks included increased traffic and litter and "degradation of the watershed."

"It's a decision that everybody in the community should make," said Alan Stubbs, an Oella resident and a greenway opponent. "Whether you are for it or not, we're still neighbors and we need to make a decision that benefits the entire community."

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