Build it and they will complain: Residents cry foul over ball field

Pre-emptive strike has Sykesville Town Council ready to drop park plan

May 30, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The mere mention of a baseball field in their upscale Sykesville neighborhood has residents crying foul.

At issue are 3.5 acres of open space between Talon and Wimmer lanes in the Hawk Ridge Farm subdivision at the western end of town. When the last houses have been built, the developer will give the property to the town.

The Parks and Recreation Department considered building a backstop and practice field on the site, similar to what is in place in nearby Burkett Park. The town is in line for about $40,000 in Open Space funds from the state, money that it will use to create and improve parks.

Mayor Jonathan S. Herman said the ball field at Wimmer and Talon lanes was "viewed as a potential option and was not a done deal. Parks and Rec was looking for ways to make this a better place to work and play."

Residents said the first inkling they had of the town's plans came from surveyors marking the property.

"This is public parkland and we want to be involved in discussions on its use," said Robert Martin. "You should be getting input from the community before the surveyors are out."

Residents of all 30 homes, which would face the field, want trees, walking trails and a couple of gazebos.

They said they oppose any permanent sports structure, and they have submitted a petition signed by more than 150 people supporting their stance.

More than 40 homeowners besieged the Town Council last week, insisting on a passive park. Many said a sports facility violates the covenants of their neighborhood.

"We know it is your duty to ensure recreation services for the entire town, but we oppose baseball fields and any other permanent sports structure," said Susan Dolan of Wimmer Lane.

"We are looking forward to trees and footpaths for all residents," she said.

Neighbors submitted their design proposal detailing the types of trees and shrubs they would like planted.

"We have beautiful ideas, and we want a wonderful summer without worrying about ball fields," said Frank Robert of Wimmer Lane. "We can't see baseball fields in our front yards and baseballs through our windows."

Many had measured the distance from the proposed home plate to their homes. For some, the distance is about 100 feet, and an errant baseball could damage property.

"It is ironic that we paid hefty property taxes on relatively expensive homes facing the open space and now the town appears poised to use some of those tax dollars to build a sports structure that ultimately will drive our home values down," said Stan Hubbard, quoting from a letter he read into the council record.

The mayor, who praised the residents for "a marvelous job presenting thoughts and ideas," informally polled the council and found unanimous support for the homeowners.

"I could never vote for a ball park in the middle of a community," said Councilman Charlie Mullins.

Councilwoman Jeannie Nichols, who leads the Parks and Recreation committee, said she is willing to work on a new design. She asked for volunteers to work with her committee.

"This park is unique in that houses front on it," said Nichols, who lives near the park site. "Any structure would be directly visible to the homes. This is something they don't want to see."

A meeting is set for 7 p.m. today at the Town House, 7547 Main St. Officials are asking for input as they design the park.

"We certainly don't want to push for something residents don't want," said Nichols. "Our idea is to improve parks and get the amenities that people do want."

The complaints produced one much-needed result, said Nichols.

"I think I will have a lot of volunteers for my committee," she said.

Information: 410-795-8959.

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