Balance at Blandair

Howard County: A judge's ruling clears way for soccer fields, baseball diamonds -- and a big fight.

June 30, 2000

NOW, the real fun begins.

The friend of a reclusive Columbia woman has lost his bid to gain control of the 300-acre Blandair Farm in Columbia, one of the largest undeveloped tracts in the county. Pending an appeal, county planners -- with citizen input -- may turn now to the task of laying out recreational areas for resident use.

Environmentalists, abutting property owners and some influential political leaders will try to block the county's plan to install a number of lighted playing fields and parking spaces.

The county's plans will be laid out for review at public hearings. The process could well be contentious, but that will be good if it produces a balanced plan.

Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. ruled recently on the status of the land Howard County bought for $10.7 million. The property's former longtime owner, Elizabeth C. "Miss Nancy" Smith, spent her life fending off development of any kind. In the most dramatic effort to show her bona fides, Ms. Smith never cashed a $140,000 check paid to her for a bit of property taken to build Route 175.

She wanted her wishes for Blandair followed after death -- but failed to sign a will that might have given that hope some legal weight. A friend, Byron Hall, attempted to gain control of the property to preserve it in keeping with her wishes for space for organic gardening, a sort of retirement home for horses and a wildlife habitat in the midst of malls and cul de sacs.

Some will see progress in this, others another bit of clumsy governmental intrusion. Whichever view one adopts, it might be possible to envision a new Blandair, open to wider community use, yet one in which Ms. Smith's goals are not disregarded.

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