Still in the dark on theater size, residents say

Hearing on proposed two-screen drive-in leaves them upset

Complex near homes

November 29, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After nearly four hours of testimony before the Carroll Board of Zoning Appeals yesterday, Eldersburg residents complained they're still uncertain about the size of a proposed drive-in theater complex on Liberty Road and its impact on their community.

Residents repeatedly asked for specifics on Bumpers Drive-In Theater - which would have two screens - only to learn from those testifying in its support that it was too early to say how large the buildings would be, what improvements would be made to roads and what noise or air pollution the complex would create.

"Everything is so preliminary, how can we ask questions on rezoning?" asked Wendy Boag of Linton Springs, a subdivision in South Carroll.

Residents also asked if the three-member zoning board can make a decision based on such imprecise information.

Thomas Stansfield, attorney for the drive-in's developer, said the board is charged with reviewing the concept and approving it for a 37-acre parcel now zoned for industrial use.

"There will be many other approvals required beyond this one," Stansfield said. "We are fully aware of those requirements."

The developer, Alan Ackerman, needs approval from the board to move ahead with his plan to build the outdoor theater and space for 1,100 cars. He had assembled about 20 experts to testify in favor of the plan.

Given the numerous questions posed by many of the 60 residents attending the hearing, the board only heard from four before adjourning: an owner of several drive-ins, the surveyor and architect for the project and a traffic consultant. All said they doubted the drive-in would adversely affect Eldersburg homeowners.

Residents were told to only ask questions, but many stretched their queries into comments. Some offered statistics to bolster their arguments.

Jon Walker, president of the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association, answered questions for nearly an hour and might unintentionally have provided the most damaging testimony to Ackerman's case. Walker, who owns drive-ins in Indiana and Florida, used folksy anecdotes to detail problems with teen-agers, trash, noise and public urination.

The two proposed theaters would sit next to three developments of about 500 homes.

Howard Franklin of Cecil Way was dismayed to learn the larger of the proposed movie screens would be about 600 feet from his back yard, with the nearest parking space on the complex about 20 feet away.

Joseph Kovacic, who lives on the same street, expressed fears about air pollution from so many cars.

Nearly all the residents who spoke at the hearing said Carroll should try to attract industry to the site of the complex, which would also include a concert stage.

"I moved here from Northern Virginia for a quieter, slower pace, not for a concert hall," said Andrea Sinnott of Sumner's Hollow. "I was sure this land would be used for something, but this is not appropriate."

Vickie Cavey of Linton Springs said she had spent hours studying county land maps before settling on her home. She asked for examples of industrial projects that would be allowed on the adjoining property before making her decision.

"This is not an appropriate use for a property that sits between neighborhoods," Cavey said.

"I was told there could be light manufacturing where adults would be working. Instead, we are going to get kids coming out and partying."

The board continued the hearing until 9:30 a.m. Dec. 17 in Room 003 of the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St., Westminster.

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