When he started a veterinary hospital along Generals Highway on the outskirts of Annapolis in 1974, Harrison Monk says, he was promised his business would be linked to Anne Arundel County's water and sewer services in about a decade.
Greater Annapolis Animal Hospital, which now is home to 15 veterinarians, still is without those services. Now drawing water from its second well, the practice also relies on its own septic system. And because it's a business, state regulations require Monk to be certified in water inspection, which calls for him to take continuing-education classes when he says he'd rather be studying animal medicine.
"It's been a hardship," said Monk, who co-owns the practice with three others. "It's an expense we have to pass along to our clients as the cost of doing business."
A bill being considered by the County Council would add the animal hospital and several other properties along Generals Highway north of Westfield Annapolis mall to the county water and sewer master plan. But opposition from many in the quiet community to a proposal to construct an assisted-living facility on three adjoining parcels threatens to kill the bill.
The developers of the proposed assisted-living development need a special zoning allowance and access to the county's water and sewer systems in order to build the project. They tried unsuccessfully to get the zoning change in 2007.
An official from the county's Office of Planning and Zoning, which proposed changes that would also add water and sewer services to a nearby bowling alley and a small office park, did not respond to a message seeking comment for this article.
Richard Falk, a retired physician who lives in the area, said residents are opposed to the development. They worry, Falk said, about the scope of development and the potential for it to spur even more commercial operations along the historic road, which is already heavily traveled.
"The community doesn't want any more commercial development," said Falk. "This just represents urban creep. Bit by bit, it's like a death by a thousand cuts. Pretty soon, you have the whole area developed."
Generals Highway is a two-lane road that leads from Crownsville into Annapolis and was named to commemorate George Washington's 1783 trip to the city to resign his commission as head of the Continental Army. Wooded, 1-acre properties line Generals Highway, which is used by commuters seeking to bypass other clogged arteries, including Interstate 97.
In 2006, the council designated Generals Highway as a scenic and historic road. It is one of 154 roads across the county with the designation, which limits development.
The next year, the community successfully fought off advances from the developers of the assisted-living facility, whose plans included a 160-bed facility, when the County Council blocked the zoning change needed for the project to advance.
Ken Wagner, one of the owners of the property, did not return a message seeking comment. His attorney Alan J. Wyatt, also did not return a message seeking comment.
Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat, said he's considering an amendment to the bill that would serve as a compromise. The amendment would provide water service only, which would prevent the assisted-living facility development but aid the veterinary hospital.
"The last County Council debated this very same proposal, and it was rejected unanimously," said Benoit. "From my perspective, nothing's changed. The community still doesn't support it."
Deb Crawford, president of the Generals Highway Council of Civic Associations, which represents 17 community groups, said she supports Benoit's plan.
"If [the assisted-living project] gets approved, it would be a catastrophe," said Crawford, who has lived in the area for eight years.
But Benoit's plan "seems like it meets the needs of those commercial facilities while protecting the property that the community is concerned about being developed," said Crawford. "I think that's a good compromise."
Councilman Chris Trumbauer, a Democrat whose district includes the area in question, said he would consider supporting Benoit's amendment.
"In this particular case, you have to weigh whatever environmental benefits there would be with enabling whatever development might be possible," said Trumbauer. "And I'm very conscious that the area has been threatened with development before, and they want to preserve their community."