Park proposal kindles fear in neighbors

Study of Franklin Point included in county budget

Beverly Triton `fiasco' recalled

Public to have say in how bayside land is developed

May 29, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The beach at southern Anne Arundel County's Franklin Point lies at the edge of 400 undisturbed acres and offers stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay.

Public money has been approved to begin planning for a park there. Some who live nearby hope that history isn't repeated.

They remember how plans to develop a nearby waterfront property, Beverly Triton Beach, dissolved amid complaints from the community. The memories of that controversy led some to argue that planning money for a park at Franklin Point should have been cut from the recently adopted county budget.

"The Beverly Triton fiasco is exactly why we can not follow the same process at Franklin Point," said Amanda Spake, president of South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development, or SACReD. She warned that budgeting $100,000 for a Franklin Point study would launch the kind of process that failed before and, she said, "is likely to fail again at Franklin Point."

The County Council voted down an amendment to cut the money from the budget -- but only after county Parks Director Tom Donlin said that input from residents would play an important role in deciding how the Franklin Point property would be used.

At stake is the future of land that in the 1990s was the site of a proposed development of luxury homes. SACReD members opposed that plan, and it was abandoned.

Dennis M. Callahan, director of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, said last week that the $100,000 will be used to hire environmental engineers who will study wildlife and vegetation on the Franklin Point property, which is south of Shady Side. He said a committee of residents could convene within the next six months to create a master plan for the new park, which because of county budget limitations probably won't open until after 2005.

"There is a very small segment of the community that thinks the property belongs to them and that is not the case," said Callahan, who added that public money, $3 million from the state and $3 million from the county, was used to purchase land at Franklin Point in 1998.

The county must move ahead with planning in order to receive title to the park from the state, Callahan said. He said that a recent survey of residents who live near Franklin Point -- which remains in a natural state -- showed they have a variety of opinions on how it should be used.

"There were people who responded that they wanted nothing at Franklin Point and there were people who said they wanted ball fields and riding trails," Callahan said. "But there is an overwhelming interest that something happen on that property."

There also is an interest in avoiding the type of acrimony that accompanied a proposal to build an indoor recreational facility at Beverly Triton Beach, which once operated as a private beach before it was bought by the county in 1985. County officials removed the proposed recreational facility from a master plan because of community complaints.

The land remains closed to public use without a permit, and the county has not allocated any money to develop it. A caretaker oversees the 341-acre property, which is home to many deer and birds.

Recalling the debate surrounding the Beverly Triton Beach plan, Spake said she had hoped a citizens committee would be allowed to come up with its own vision for the Franklin Point property before the county hired an engineering firm. She said she found some reason for hope in the park director's promise to allow early citizen input.

"Now what is really important is that we make sure that will happen," she said. "I would like to talk to him as soon as possible about getting that going."

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