Residents sound off at a community meeting on the proposed wedding venue/equine facility The Regent at Stone House in Churchville. (Bryan Zumer, Baltimore Sun Media Group)
Churchville's Tim Limberger may have modified his plans for his proposed The Regent at Stone House equestrian and wedding venue, but his neighbors remained firmly opposed to the project Wednesday night, saying they continue to be frustrated by Limberger's lack of answers about the project his family wants to build on Glenville Road.
About 200 residents filed into Harford Technical High School's Amoss Center for a second community input meeting on the project that lasted three hours, as attendees peppered Limberger and his representatives with questions and doubts about his revised project. A similar meeting was held last August at Harford Community College with similar results.
Both sides seemed just as divided at the end of Wednesday's meeting, with Limberger even apologizing for failing to anticipate the residents' many detailed questions about the nature of his plans.
"I agree I was not so prepared about the equine part of it," he said, promising to answer residents' questions as soon as possible.
The original plan of a barn-like wedding venue on the 51-acre farm drew an outcry and neighborhood campaign to stop the project. The Limbergers recently came back with a modified plan that features an equine facility, along with reduced parking and a relatively more low-key barn to host weddings.
Ann Hughes was among the many who said they continue to be worried about the impact of "what I would consider commercialization in an ag area."
"I love the Limbergers' property. I think it's the centerpiece of our neighborhood," Hughes said, adding she did not want to see it "defaced by human bodies."
Limberger, who was assisted by Rob Weinhold of The Fallston Group, an executive advisory and corporate PR firm, spoke passionately about his and his wife's dream for the project, while most of the audience seemed to remain skeptical.
"When we first purchased a home, I did not think I needed to ask the people around me if I could do what I wanted to do on my own land," he said. "This is our passion. This is something that we want to do and I feel we will not ruin our community."
Limberger admitted he did not know all the programmatic details of the equine facility, but promised it would hold only "small, intimate shows," not ones for dozens of people.
Rob Manns, architect with Manns Woodward Studios, and Carl Wilson, of The Traffic Group, also said the venue would be 800 to 875 feet from the nearest house and sound will be mitigated through various measures in the building. The venue will not feature any outdoor event space.
Wilson said Glenville Road now has "relatively low volumes of traffic" and "the site will generate relatively low traffic."
Limberger tried to reassure neighbors that he had no plans to further commercialize the area.
"If we wanted to expand and make a larger building, we could have already done that," he said. "We want this to be a destination location for weddings and for training, for both. If you put buildings everywhere, that ruins the tapestry."
Two to three Harford County Sheriff's Office deputies were present throughout the evening, as Limberger and his neighbors exchanged accusations of harassment, threats and police reports.
"This community really wishes you would stop painting yourself as a victim. We actually feel like we've been victims, so it would be very helpful if you stop portraying yourself that way to news media and everyone you talk to," Hirsch said, drawing applause.
"We are not against farmers and we are not against people owning land and doing what they want with their land. We are all landowners," she said. "However, we live in a very tight community and your neighborhood and your land is very close to my land. In fact, when you have a party, my floorboards were shaking."
Karen Quinn-Doggett said the Limbergers' plan will impact property values and neighbors' quality of life.
"While you may have a passion, well, I have a passion, it's skiing. But I'm not going to open a ski resort in my yard," she said.
She and some others wondered why the intersection of Route 155 and Route 22 would not have to be improved in addition to Glenville Road. Wilson, the traffic consultant, explained it was not required by county law.
"You're going to bring people into and onto our neighborhood who are in an environment where they're drinking, and the way you're explaining it they could be drinking for a long, long time if you're doing one wedding a night," said Fred Ford, who lives across from the Limberger property and has been the leader of the opposition.
Bob Hoofnagle said he did not understand why the Limbergers would want to proceed with the project at all after drawing so much animosity from other residents.
"I have never seen so many people in Churchville in one room," Hoofnagle said, adding that "every good business plan has an exit plan."