Residents speak against development of Oella Mill

February 20, 2002|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

More than 100 residents of the quaint and sleepy Patapsco riverside village of Oella jammed into a nearby school lunchroom last night to hear details of a proposal to transform the old Oella Mill into 175 apartments and to protest the dangers they see from it.

The developer told them the apartments will turn Oella into an upscale community, raising the values of the mill and existing homes in the Baltimore County neighborhood across the river from Ellicott City.

"We're going to do a tremendous project here. We're proud of it and we're going to be good neighbors," said Jon Wallenmeyer, vice president for East Coast development of the Forest City Residential Group.

But many in Oella fear that hundreds of cars owned by mill apartment residents would clog the village's narrow access roads and change the character of the tiny historic mill community.

Oella resident Lisa Nicolaou asked the developers how they planned to preserve the quality of life in Oella, where people like to walk and jog along the road.

"Part of what makes Oella so attractive is the lack of people here," she said, winning applause from the crowd at Westchester Elementary School on Old Frederick Road..

Geoffrey H. Glazer, project architect from Kann and Associates of Baltimore, told the audience that traffic studies show the roadways could accommodate the project. He said 257 parking spaces - inside and outside the mill building - would be available.

"This is a jewel of a building. We want to bring it back to its state of historical character," Glazer said.

But resident Lydia M. Temoshok insisted on knowing "where are all these cars in Oella going to park."

In November, Forest City, a Cleveland-based developer announced plans to fill the mill with upscale apartments that would have monthly rents of $1,400 to $3,000.

Now, some Oella residents, long used to dodging occasional traffic on roads that, in some places, are barely one lane wide, have visions of legions of SUVs crowding the roads.

"I don't think there's a person in this room who wants to sit and wait for everybody to get out of the [mill] building," said Oella resident Shane Morris.

The sale of the 5.8-acre mill property is contingent on Forest City gaining Baltimore County's approval, a process that could extend into next year.

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