Owens pressed on old issues

County executive faces conservation, development concerns

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

The ghosts of developments past continue to haunt the fledgling administration of Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens.

The past came up Wednesday night as Owens was sharply questioned at the Stoney Creek Democratic Club about development issues along two peninsulas, a proposed 3,000-home mixed-use proposal in Marley Neck's Solley area and preserving green space in the fragile eastern end of Mountain Road.

Supporters of the long-planned residential development on 1,000 acres in Solley pressed Owens to explain why the county has held the project in limbo for at least a decade.

Others, concerned about growth at the eastern end of Mountain Road, warned the executive that unfettered development cannot continue along the corridor without destroying the Magothy River and its waterfront.

Solley community activist Marcia Drenzyk asked Owens to outline her vision for the Marley Neck peninsula if the developments proposed there, Tanyard Springs and Tanyard Cove, continue to be denied on grounds of a lack of adequate public facilities.

Last month, Owens refused a waiver of the county's adequate-facilities requirements for schools, and she reiterated that decision to Drenzyk and the other 120 people present.

Lifetime Solley resident Casper Hackmann, a supporter of the Tanyard projects, said the waiver denial was unfair because other developers were routinely granted adequate-facilities waivers during the administration of Republican John G. Gary, who was defeated by Owens in last year's election.

"Why do we not have a level playing field?" Hackmann asked.

"I am trying to create a level playing field," Owens responded, "with no special favors for individuals. It's so painful and it's so wrong and it's so difficult to figure out how to make the past wrongs right."

Jane Nes, one of the property owners involved in the Tanyard proposals, donated land for a new Solley Elementary School to serve the projects. The school opened in 1995 and is crowded with students from other developments in the Pasadena area.

"I've asked my staff, when you have 1,000 pristine acres, how can we develop something over time that can address overcrowded schools," Owens said. "My vision is a place where people live and work. Getting to that point is extremely difficult."

Owens said she has spent "probably four days" since taking office trying to understand the long and complicated history of the Tanyard projects, which dates back 25 years.

"There has to be a way of staging this project over time so the developers and the Board of Education can work collaboratively," Owens said. "But this is such a big piece of property; it's important to the whole county."

Hackmann said he is worried about what will happen to the 1,000 undeveloped acres if the Tanyard projects can't proceed.

"We've got nothing but dumps and jails here," he told Owens. "You folks should support this thing."

Members of the Mountain Road Peninsula Preservation Committee urged Owens to find a way to prevent further development along Mountain Road, from the eastern end of Route 100 to Gibson Island.

"The upper part of Mountain Road is horrendous; it looks like Ritchie Highway," said Jim Bilenki, co-chairman of the committee. "We don't want that for the lower half."

"I think that long range, the most effective way to protect the peninsula is to acquire a pretty significant piece of property through [the state's] Open Space program," Owens said.

Bilenki's committee is working with the Magothy River Land Trust to put about 1,000 contiguous acres of land near North Shore Drive into the state's Rural Legacy program. Another preservation priority is North Gray's Bog, which is attached to a 23-acre parcel off Hickory Point Road.

Bilenki said a developer has a contract to purchase the 23-acre property but that his committee is hoping it will be eligible for preservation under a state environmental program.

"Time is of the essence," Bilenki said. "The more we sit on our hands, the more developers get permits down here."

Another topic was the much-anticipated 36-hole public golf course off Fort Smallwood Road. Tom Donlin, a county parks administrator, announced that Owens had signed an application for a grading permit for the course.

Donlin said construction might begin next spring.

The project dates back 17 years and has been on and off the books during three previous county administrations. It includes two subdivisions totaling 174 homes to be built around the course.

Local golfers have wanted the course for years, but members of the Stoney Creek Gun Club, which is near the site, said prospective homebuyers there should be made aware of the club's existence.

Pub Date: 9/24/99

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