Gene Iager can talk for hours about his family's history of farming in Fulton, which began in 1839, when his great-great-grandfather Henry R. Iager purchased the original 108-acre site for $225.
But while Iager, 66, speaks fondly of his family's heritage, he says he realized years ago that changing economics and regulations would prevent his family from always farming on the more than 1,000 acres that straddle Route 216.
"Nothing lasts forever," he said.
After beginning the Maple Lawn commercial and residential district 12 years ago, Iager wants to develop 91 acres across Route 216 from Reservoir High School. His plan is Maple Lawn South, a residential development consisting of apartments, single-family homes and townhouses.
He has applied through comprehensive zoning to change the property's zoning from rural residential to R-A-15, a zoning that allows 15 housing units per acre.
"In a perfect world, it would be nice to leave it all as farmland, but we have to be realistic and try to make good, smart economical decisions," Iager said. "The time has come for that land to be put to rest."
But, as happened to the proposal of the original Maple Lawn development, Iager's zoning request has upset nearby residents, who argue his plans will overburden schools and roadways, cause school redistricting, pollute the Patuxent Watershed and violate PlanHoward 2030.
"For him it's about millions and millions of dollars," said Fulton resident Jeff Regner. "For the rest of us, we have to live in the community he leaves behind."
Nearby residents have formed Smart Fulton Growth to oppose Iager's rezoning request. As of Monday, 711 had signed a petition opposing the rezoning request.
Iager disputes claims that he is just trying to cash in by developing another 91 acres of farmland. Instead, he said that he and his brother, Charles, are trying create a family legacy with Maple Lawn.
"We live here, we're going to see it, too," Iager said. "We won't do anything that we wouldn't be proud of."
He said his fear is that after he and his older brother die, the farmland would be sold off to different developers who could create a "hodge-podge" of development.
"This isn't like we just woke up and decided to do this," Iager said. "There were a lot of tears. We're emotionally invested in this."
The Planning Board is expected to make its recommendations on zoning requests to the County Council by the end of May. The council, which makes the final decision on zoning requests, is expected to deliberate on the requests in June and July and make its decision before the August recess.
Maple Lawn South
Signs reading "No! Apartments" and "Stop Fulton Apartments" have been posted along Route 216 in recent weeks, but Iager and his attorney, Bill Erskine, said residents are focusing on the smallest part of the project.
There are no plans to build 1,000 apartments, as had first been reported, although the R-A-15 zoning would allow it. Erskine said there is no market for that type of development.
Instead, preliminary designs for Maple Lawn South show apartment buildings in the area near the water tower, a collection of townhouses through the middle of the property and single-family homes abutting the homes on Murphy Road.
The majority of development is expected to be townhouses, but site developer Chris Murn said it is too early to estimate the total number of housing units.
Murn, president of Murn Development, said the rental units are a "small component" of the development, but they are expected to be upscale, similar to those at the Enclave in Emerson in Laurel.