Residents lament removal of trees

Developer builds sediment pond, clears land for park

June 24, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

For homeowners, the lush old trees on tiny Third Avenue in Ferndale kept the planes, trains and automobiles at a distance. They muffled noise from Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Interstate 97. They put the messy world behind a scenic front.

That was before a developer razed two blocks of dogwoods, maples, pines and elms two weeks ago, and began building a sediment pond to accommodate a business park. Cromwell Manor residents are now face to face, except for a buffer, with the sights and sounds of a busy suburban area.

"We were devastated," said Doris Waldman, who has lived on Third Avenue for 47 years and remembers when the property across the street was a working farm. "We're just upset no one has ever approached us and told us what to expect."

Joe Lenhart, a 37-year-resident of Third Avenue, makes no attempt to conceal his anger over losing the trees.

"Every time you turn around they're tearing something down; everything is concrete," said Lenhart. "There's just so many places jammed in around here you can't move."

Most residents knew the land, bordered by light rail tracks, Third Avenue and Hollins Ferry Road, was slated for development, but they say they were unaware of project details and that the felling of the trees came as a shock.

"Who knows what the long-term effects are going to be," said Sharon Jacobs, a 16-year-resident of Third Avenue who described her household as "the babies of the neighborhood."

Resident Louise Bronakoski said: "We have the light rail on one side, the airport on the other, and now our woods are gone. It's very sad."

In response to residents' concerns, County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle has arranged a meeting for Wednesday so that MIE Properties, the developer of the industrial park, can explain its project to homeowners. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Ferndale Senior Center, 7205 Baltimore and Annapolis Blvd.

"The people there want to know what is going on with that property, and they don't feel like they've been informed," Beidle said. It is too late to stop the development, she said, because it has received all necessary approvals from county and state agencies.

Clearing the trees marked the second phase of Cromwell Business Park, said Tom Pilon, development director with MIE.

He said the Cromwell family donated the 11.5 acres in question to the Greater Ferndale Civic Association with the understanding that the property would be reserved for public use.

Pilon said MIE officials met with members of the association to come up with a plan to make the land a recreational space. Based on those discussions, MIE has removed the trees and will level the ground and plant grass. Pilon said MIE will then build a 6-foot-high dirt berm topped with 3-foot-high cypress trees to create a visual buffer between the parkland and the business center.

In developing a plan for the property, Pilon said, MIE dealt mainly with Leo Harnen, president of the Ferndale/Linthicum Area Community Council, and Mike Wagner, a member of the council's board of directors. Pilon said the Greater Ferndale Civic Association, represented by Harnen, signed an agreement with the developer Nov. 9 approving the plan.

"My understanding was they represented the community, so we made an effort to let them know what was going on," Pilon said. The developer did not schedule a community hearing to inform homeowners about the plans for the property.

Harnen said residents' lack of participation in community association meetings is partly responsible for some of the confusion surrounding the work on Cromwell Business Park.

He said the Greater Ferndale Civic Association hasn't met for years and that it will soon merge with the Ferndale/Linthicum Area Community Council. The council's monthly meetings draw 10 to 12 people, he said.

"Community associations are not very active. We try and do the best we can," said Harnen. "Show me another community in Anne Arundel County that has a piece of property like that for its own park."

He said the park will be a better and larger site for the annual Ferndale Days celebration, currently held on the one flat portion of the land bordering Third Avenue. He said it also could be the site for a senior center.

Harnen said he and Wagner met several times with MIE before taking the plans for the Cromwell property back to the Ferndale/Linthicum Area Community Council.

He said he visited four or five families along Third Avenue last year to tell them about MIE's plans, including the removal of the trees.

"I told them to get the word out around the neighborhood and if there were any problems to call me," Harnen said. "I think we thought we were doing the right thing, and I still think we're doing the right thing."

Waldman, who said she didn't know Ferndale had open community meetings, said the developer should have made more of an effort to inform neighbors.

"It was nice of him [Harnen] to tell us, but it was all cut and dried," she said. "We did not know anything was going on until he told us."

Harnen did not mention the sediment pond, she said, adding, "I cannot say that is the most pleasant thing to be viewing."

Jacobs said she admires Harnen's civic-mindedness but questions his right to represent the Third Avenue residents.

"He doesn't have to live here," she said. "In my opinion, he's making decisions that directly affect me as a homeowner. If he wants to speak on behalf of the community, he should have first met with us and gotten our input.

"Whatever trees they plant, we'll never see in our lifetime."

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