Loyola land acquisition for athletic fields OK'd

Planning Commission hears from neighbors who fear disruption

November 02, 2001|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Advancing a Loyola College dream downfield, the city Planning Commission approved last night the school's proposed acquisition of 71 acres for a large athletic complex -- over the outspoken objections of a dozen people who say it would destroy Woodberry's sylvan beauty.

For nearly three years, Loyola officials have tried to come to terms with criticism of the project, which in its first phase would involve an intercollegiate athletic field with 6,000 spectator seats for lacrosse or soccer, along with two smaller practice fields.

At last night's meeting, Loyola men's soccer coach Mark Mettrick said that the college's fields are regarded as second-rate and that to attract top athletes "a new facility is imperative."

Residents of nearby communities raised concerns over light, noise, land and air pollution. They noted that the site -- most of it city-owned, with an adjacent 20 acres owned by Children's Hospital -- includes a former landfill that, they said, should not be disturbed so that trees grow over it.

"I saw four blue heron the other day," said Heather Danforth, who is the daughter of opponent Jan Danforth. She implored the commission to "save the woods."

Adults made similar pitches. "The woods are our only amenity. We moved here for one reason: peace and quiet," said Jim Emberger.

"We like it the way it is," said Elizabeth Smith. "In the dark, you can see the stars."

Terrence M. Sawyer, the assistant to the college president who has attended 20 meetings with community groups over a nearly three-year period to discuss the project, said last night that Loyola was committed to community consultations -- "always and forever."

Some compromises had been made, Sawyer and others noted, including a reduction in the number of parking places and the placing of close to 30 acres of the site in a forest conservation easement.

City planning officials said some of the land would be preserved for a greenway connecting Druid Hill Park and Cylburn Arboretum.

Mayor Martin O'Malley met Wednesday with opponents, who failed to sway his support for the Loyola project, which has grown to include an indoor arena with 6,000 seats and a number of outdoor tennis courts in a second phase -- although those may be a decade away, Sawyer said.

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