Few turn out for hearing on Iager site

Weekend session draws only a dozen to speak against plan

Homes, offices planned

But foes say sparse crowd doesn't mean waning of opposition

September 26, 1999|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

The fierce opposition to Stewart J. Greenebaum's plan to convert a turkey farm in Fulton into a community of homes and businesses appears to be dwindling, with only a dozen Fulton residents attending a special hearing yesterday before the Howard County Zoning Board.

In previous hearings -- all of which have been held on weekday evenings -- a solid showing of residents, many of them members of the Greater Beaufort Citizens Association, showed up to protest Greenebaum's plan to build the proposed development of 1,198 residential units and office buildings on the 507-acre Iager farm just west of U.S. 29, bounded by Route 216 and Johns Hopkins Road.

Yesterday's turnout was a surprise to some, especially because residents requested Saturday meetings instead of the daytime hearings proposed by zoning board chairwoman Mary C. Lorsung.

"I pretty much projected at the last meeting that I didn't need to attend this one. It's going very slow," said James Oliver, who has lived in the Fulton area for 31 years and is opposed to the plan. "There is no question that this development is going to take place -- it's just a question of when."

For more than a year, residents who live in and around this rural community have been organizing to fight Greenebaum's plan. They've attended meetings, signed petitions and agreed to testify against the project. They argue that the developer's proposed mixed-use community would increase traffic and overcrowd nearby schools.

Greenebaum has said that his project would be phased in over 10 years, with construction to begin in 2001. He said traffic congestion would not be a major issue because residents who live in the development would also work in the development.

"Do I honestly believe that everyone will walk to work?" Greenebaum said at yesterday's hearing. "Of course not, but I think we will be able to reduce the amount of traffic.

"This is an anti-sprawl development. I know everyone says that it's not, but I know that it's anti-sprawl."

John Taylor, who lives in nearby Highland, scoffed at Greenebaum's assertion.

"People may be able to walk five minutes to a Giant [supermarket]," said Taylor, "but they're not going to walk from Giant with five bags of groceries in their hands."

Greenebaum has said his project would generate millions of dollars for the county. He said he would easily be able to attract a Fortune 500 company to the area, as well as other prominent corporations and businesses.

"I suspect that the site would be built out in short order," he said. "It's a great location; it has great visibility."

He has also said he would include moderately priced units, as well as apartments and townhouses, in the development, which he has said many residents oppose.

Greenebaum has said opposition to the apartments, townhouses and moderately priced units is a sign of "racism," arguing that he believes various housing options would attract diverse people to the area, including minorities.

"Wherever growth goes, there will be a room full of people who say, `I don't want it in my back yard,' " he said.

Nancy Davis, a Clarksville resident who has helped lead community opposition to the development, said the small number of residents attending yesterday's meeting did not mean that residents had changed their minds.

"People are very busy and can't attend all of the meetings," said Davis, who did not attend yesterday's hearing. "But I believe that when push comes to shove, the community will be there to show their support. We are very organized, and they'll come back to testify against the project."

Davis said the technical terminology used during such hearings can easily turn residents off.

"I've been to a lot of hearings, and it can get really boring," she said. "Right now, they're dealing with the nitty-gritty details -- the information is very technical and legal. Your average person doesn't understand what's going on."

The next public session is scheduled at 7: 30 p.m. Tuesday, but the hearings may continue until November.

Pub Date: 9/26/99

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