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Rumors and ripostes fly at Waverly Woods hearing Proposal's backers, opponents prepare for next round on June 19


The date for the next Zoning Board hearing on Waverly Woods was reported incorrectly in Sunday's Howard County Sun.

The hearing will resume at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 16.

The Howard County Sun regrets the error.

Last week's Waverly Woods hearing was so rough Zoning Board members might want to wear combat boots to the next one.

Board members were caught in a cross-fire Thursday night between opponents and advocates of the proposal to build a business, residential and golfing village on 682 rural acres along Marriottsville Road between Interstate 70 and Route 99.

"It is rumored that this board has already made up its mind on this issue, that the process of soliciting public input is nothing more than a facade," Market Square resident Alexander Wolfe said.

"The rumor is that both Mr. [Darrel] Drown and Mr. [Charles C.] Feaga will vote in the negative, given the level of concern and outrage within their districts, with the other three members voting to support the developer's proposal," Wolfe said.

The property lies within Feaga's district and abuts Drown's district.

Board Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, told Wolfe that both the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Planning Board had endorsed the project prior to sending it to the Zoning Board.

"If it weren't for rumors, politics wouldn't exist," Gray said. "You can't be persuaded by rumors. I understand the perception that's out there."

"We always hear rumors," said Drown, R-2nd. "We just don't pay attention to them."

"I'm sure you were not intending to be insulting or offensive," said Shane Pendergrass, D-1st. "I am a person, a mother, a former teacher, a wife. I was a citizen activist just as you are. . . . I don't care for the kinds of insults that I hear. I don't think they need to be said. . . . It is not true. None of that stuff is true."

Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, also joined in.

"I will not make up my mind on how I will vote on this proposal until I hear all the evidence," he said.

Feaga, R-5th, is recovering from surgery and was not present at the hearing.

Wolfe challenged what he called "the myth of commercial development as the panacea for generating greater and greater sources of revenue to pay for schools, roads and other services."

The Waverly Woods proposal calls for 937 housing units, ranging from single-family homes to apartments, to be built on 302 acres and for businesses to occupy 372 adjacent acres. An 18-hole public golf course would be built around the homes and businesses.

"We're not a bunch of NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard]-crazed communities that are attempting to block any development on this site," Wolfe said. "We realize that this site will be developed. We hope its development will be based on existing realities and not motivated by the prospect of potential millions of dollars of tax revenue."

Wolfe was closely cross-examined by Waverly Woods attorney Leonard Goldstein about his level of expertise. Other opponents who followed him Thursday night said they felt intimidated.

"I'm guilty of being a shallow citizen, but I've listened to the experts and been duly impressed," though not convinced, Wood Stream Court resident Charles A. Aston said at the end of his testimony. "Now you can tear me apart."

"The way people are treated [by Waverly attorneys] is abominable," said McKenzie Meadows resident Katie Peters-Rodbell. "People are afraid to say anything. It's like a massacre, but I'm going to speak anyway."

Her voice choked with emotion, Peters-Rodbell said she was concerned about school overcrowding the development might bring. She said there is no provision in the county's adequate facilities ordinance assuring that any school other than an elementary school would be able to accept students from a new development without overcrowding.

"Would it put your mind at ease if our experts used figures supplied by the school board of Howard County?" Goldstein asked.

Peters-Rodbell said it would not. "This is a personal issue for every parent who has a child."

"Can you imagine any testimony that would change your mind?" Goldstein asked.

"I'd listen, but with a grain of salt," Peters-Rodbell said.

Earlier Thursday night, Waverly engineering consultant Terrell A. Fisher told the board that sewer pipes in the proposed development would be so small that expansion of sewer service westward from the site would not be likely.

In earlier meetings, residents had expressed fears that by bringing public water and sewer to the proposed village, the rest of western Howard County would become ripe for intense development.

Marriottsville resident Al Starr said that he found Fisher's testimony alarming. He said he was worried about his and other residential wells becoming contaminated by the Alpha Ridge landfill. "You're saying the county couldn't do anything about it," Starr said.

The hearing will resume June 19 with testimony from the developer's traffic and school experts.

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