Towson softball

A portion of the Towson University softball complex is seen through the fence which runs along the property line of neighbors in Rodgers Forge. (Brian Krista / Patuxent Publishing / May 1, 2014)

Some of the residents of the Rodgers Forge neighborhood that borders Towson University's softball stadium are alumni of the school and fans of the Tigers.

They understand the university's desire to build a $2 million new facility this summer and bring the program up to NCAA Title IX standards. They just don't want it 25 feet from their backyards.

The roughly two-dozen neighbors, who last month formed an ad-hoc committee to protest a new complex, rallied outside the university Saturday morning, saying the school has refused to negotiate with them on the plans.

"They don't listen. They do not listen," said Pat Foretich, 62, as he and his Stanmore Court neighbors waved signs demanding a meeting with University President Maravene S. Loeschke to air their concerns.

Foretich said Loeschke has pledged to improve relationships with the community but has refused to meet with community members.

Marina Cooper, Loeschke's deputy chief of staff, spoke with the residents and defended the university. She said Towson representatives have consulted the Rodgers Forge Community organization's board and softball committee regularly on the issue.

"We met three times in addition to the public forum in November," she said. "We stand ready and willing to have a final meeting."

Cooper cited accommodations the university has made to reduce the impact of the stadium on its neighbors, such as lowering the height of the press box by eight feet, moving concession stands away from the property lines and optimizing acoustics to reduce excess noise.

The neighborhood organization acknowledged the adjustments to the plan, but said in a letter to Loeschke Thursday that it would continue to oppose any stadium bordering its members' property.

"While these were positive steps, the university has not been responsive to our concerns and continues to insist on developing property adjacent to our neighborhood, thereby increasing the likelihood of ongoing and future conflict," association president Stuart Sirota wrote.

The university said it had explored moving the stadium to another site but couldn't due to "limited time, resources and the necessity to adhere to federal law."

Wes Taylor, 50, who also lives on Stanmore Court, said dealings with the university have been fraught to the point that neighbors have become skeptical of the school's motives.

"They want to turn us into College Park, with student housing up and down Stanmore Road," Foretich said. "They want to turn this into Towson University town. It's bull."

The lighting issue is one of the group's top concerns. The university says it will build infrastructure for stadium lights, but officials have pledged that the stadium will not have lights "in the near future."

"But the drawings had lights," Taylor said. "NCAA standards require lights. Why would you put up the pods if you're not going to use them?" (Cooper said that it was an efficiency measure.)

Although plans for increased netting to catch stray hits would help Jerry Truelove — he and his wife have collected a whole crate of softballs that have been hit into their back yard — what neighbors really want is more time to debate the issue.

The university doesn't plan to delay the construction, which is slated to begin in the coming months and finish in time for the 2015 season.

"The more it's postponed, the costlier it is," Cooper said. "We have to keep it on budget."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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