Port Deposit residents express their hopes for Bainbridge site

Some participants leery of housing proposal

April 06, 2003|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

PORT DEPOSIT - Citizens living in and around this Susquehanna riverbank town have begun rallying their forces in preparation for a showdown tomorrow evening over the proposed development of the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center property on a hill overlooking Main Street.

"We're here to let the Bainbridge Development Corp. know what we want and, more importantly, what we don't want at the site," Suzanne Wojtech told a meeting of about 20 area residents who gathered Wednesday evening at the Chesapeake Center.

"The BDC is very much willing to hear what we have to say," Wojtech said. The Bainbridge Development Corp. is a quasi-public agency created by the General Assembly in 1999 to oversee the development of the Navy boot camp that closed in 1976.

"We don't want 2,100 houses up there," Robert Atkinson, who lives near the main gate to Bainbridge, shouted from the back of the room.

"We don't want 3,100 houses," interjected Robert Dahl, referring to a 1,000-unit retirement center that is included in the BDC's concept plan.

"We don't want the kind of development that is going to generate a lot of minimum-wage jobs," said Donald Poist, a past mayor of this town who serves on the Town Council. "That would create an instant ghetto."

"No low-income housing," said Jeannette Hillyer. "We need a veterans cemetery and 400 acres of something that will bring good jobs to Cecil County."

She continued: "I think we should have 400 acres of open space to be used for recreation, a picnic area where the lake used to be, a nice motel and a conference center. Cecil County really needs a conference center."

"What about a grocery store?" asked Wojtech. But her suggestion didn't generate a wave of enthusiasm.

"I have two kids in school, I don't want a lot of houses up there," said Robin Everhart, who moved into the area from the Canton section of Baltimore a few years ago. "The schools will be overcrowded, and I've already seen what it's like when the schools are overcrowded."

After the two-hour community meeting, Everhart said she had never protested anything before. "But when it comes to my kids, their education, their future, I will do what I have to do.

"I feel that an overcrowded school is a failing school," she said. "Too many students in a class leads to too many classroom interruptions."

The BDC is negotiating with a development team to develop what is considered one of the prime sites along the Interstate 95 corridor.

The team includes John Paterakis, a Baltimore bakery and hotel owner; Richard M. Alter, president of Columbia-based Manekin LLC; and Clark Turner, president of Clark Turner Cos., which has undertaken a number of projects in Harford County, including waterfront residential and commercial community near Belcamp.

The developers are scheduled to provide details of their plans for the 1,200-acre site at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on Route 222.

During the meeting Wednesday night, Paul Reed said he didn't want 1,200 acres of warehouses on the Bainbridge site. He said that would lead to around-the-clock truck traffic without generating the tax base that would come from office development.

Wojtech said she didn't want a casino or slot machines on the site.

Reed said he was opposed to a retail complex the size of White Marsh Mall.

Maria Mastrippolito, who said she lives two miles from the Bainbridge site, said the development of the property would affect not only Port Deposit, but all of the western part of the county.

She wanted a movie theater on the site, along with land for a park, a YMCA and a museum.

"The way to fight this," she told the group, "is to bring people out to the meeting Monday in big numbers."

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