A United Methodist church agency that wants to build a $5 million foster care complex near Fallston has stepped up efforts to win public support for the project prior to zoning hearings later this month.

The agency, The Board of Child Care of the Baltimore Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Inc., since Aug. 14 has mailed out letters to Fallston area residents asking for public support for the project at two upcoming zoning hearings. They've invited area residents to a community meeting that their board of child care will conductSept. 5 to answer questions about the proposal.

The board wants to build a complex of five foster-care homes on 26 acres at Harford and Reckord roads. The complex would serve up to 60 children, ages 2 through 12.

Some neighbors said they welcomed additional information, but said the letters did not change their minds about the project.

"Based on casual conversations I've had, mostof my neighbors would prefer not to see it go in there. We have received more information about the project, but our concerns are the same," said Debbie Metz, whose husband, Donald, spoke out at a meeting of area citizens last May.

Metz said she is concerned that drillingone or more wells capable of serving the water needs of 60 children will reduce the natural water supply for other area residents, all ofwhom rely on wells. She also said she was concerned about strains onthe natural septic drainage areas.

"And as a mother with one school-age child and another about ready to start school, I'm concerned with the effect of the additional children on the already over-crowdedschool system," said Metz.

Adam J. Plummer, another area resident, said he plans to attend the zoning hearings, but said he would avoid another community meeting because he didn't want to hear "a harangue."

"Some of my neighbors are mad as hell," said Plummer. "To me, the last public meeting was a waste of time, listening to two or three people who ranted and raved, while others didn't get a chance to speak or ask questions."

Plummer said he "wouldn't sign a petition to try to get the thing here, but I'm not opposed to it.

"I say, thank God it's not a governmental agency going to put it in here, because nobody watches those birds," said Plummer. "The organization that's doing it is as responsible as you'll ever find, and the state and county will be watching over them."

The board of child care is seeking a special zoning exception to build the foster-care complex at a site zoned an agricultural district.

Zoning hearings have been scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 16 and 23 in the Harford County Council chambers, Level A of the County Courthouse in Bel Air.

The agency's executive director, Claude Libis, told area residents in his letter thathe needed their support to win the zoning exception.

"In the nameof homeless children, we need your help. The unmet needs for such children is staggering," wrote Libis in his Aug. 26 letter.

"We deemit vital to have present at the (zoning) hearings, persons who are knowledgeable of our project and who are willing to wear a lapel pin, indicating their support of the granting of a zoning exception in order that up to 60 children may have a home."

A lapel pin can be obtained by writing to the board, Libis said in the letter.

A separate letter, dated Aug. 14, notified area residents of a public meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at Fallston United Methodist Church where board administrators will explain more about the project.

The church agency, which has owned the property since 1974, proposed the foster-home complex last May, but delayed taking further action after some community members spoke out against the plan.

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