County officials joked last week that they expect 500 people to testify against the proposed Waverly Woods development at Tuesday morning's Planning Board hearing.
The joke may not be far off. David Stough, chairman of a month-old group called Citizens Allied for RationalExpansion, says he has obtained a parade permit so residents can picket the meeting.
Stough urged the protest last week at a meeting that he said was attended by 465 residents living near the Waverly Woods subdivision. He hopes a similar crowd will show up Tuesday, even though it's the first day of school.
"This is the single most important issue in our lives right now," Stough said. "The word on the street (regarding developers) is that 'it's a done deal, you can't win.' But I don't believe it. We're not extremists, we're not radical. We just want to seeif the voice of the people can be heard anymore."
Stough said hisgroup wants to show the board its disdain for the proposal to develop a residential, commercial and golfing village on 682 acres along Marriottsville Road and Interstate 70.
Developers are seeking a zoning change from rural -- one home per three acres -- to a variety of mixed uses.
Stough said he and most his neighbors were unaware of plans to subdivide the adjoining acres until July 22 when developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. held a public meeting to discuss the project.
What they learned is that Reuwer wants to put 937 residential units on302 acres and attract the headquarters of major corporations to another 372 acres reserved for business. Reuwer also wants to build a 18-hole public golf course around the homes and businesses and have the county run it.
Stough wants no part of it.
When Reuwer asked leaders of neighborhood organizations to give him their names so he could arrange follow-up meetings, Stough sent around his own list, saying, "If you're willing to work against this proposal, please sign here."
More than 200 people signed up, he said, and the new group was born. Since then, Stough and 40 others have gathered more than 1,500 signatures on a petition opposing the Reuwer proposal -- a figure Stough estimates will be a third or less of the final tally.
Stough also organized a 1 1/2-hour "call-in" to county officials last week aswell as a letter-writing campaign. What he finds particularly galling is that county officials he most wants to reach are unreachable.
County Council members, who also sit as the Zoning Board and will ultimately decide the Reuwer request, are forbidden by council bylaws from discussing a case with anyone until after the board makes a decision.
"We can't complain about it to our councilman? That's wrong!"Stough said. So wrong, Stough believes, that he is considering launching a voter referendum drive to challenge the bylaw.
Meanwhile, Stough is planning another demonstration to coincide with Thursday's council work session on redistricting. He hopes to force council members to take notice of his group's concerns by filling the council offices with signs and demonstrators.
"There is no sympathy or understanding (in county government) for the small guy," Stough said. "Everystep of the way where the county could have addressed residents' concerns, none were granted."
Specifically, Stough wants Tuesday morning's Planning Board session to be held in the evening. He also wantsthe county Department of Planning and Zoning to waive its copying fees.
"We're a small citizens' group and cannot afford the fees thatwould be charged" to copy public documents, he said.
"Only 2 to 3percent of the people in the county know what's going on," he said. "We hope to bring that up to 15 to 20 percent."
In addition to rejecting the Reuwer proposal, Stough wants the council to rescind the 1990 general plan and allow nothing but one house per three acres, as is the zoning in the rural western portion of the county.
In a July letter to residents, psychiatrist Irving J. Taylor, one of three owners of the property Reuwer hopes to develop, said the project would be designed so as to "enhance neighborhood property values." Prices of homes for sale now in the Waverly area range from $135,000 to $400,000.
Stough says it is not property values but the potential congestion of roads and schools that is the problem. "A lot of people (at last week's meeting) said they like golf -- but not at this cost," hesaid.