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Developer's promise to build play area causes schism in Piney Meadows


A tot lot, promised to original homeowners in the Piney Meadows subdivision but unwanted by recent homebuyers, is dividing the Eldersburg community of 138 families.

William Chavis opened an information session for residents Tuesday night with a prayer for "no fussing and no cussing." Neighbors refrained from epithets, but frayed tempers often interrupted the two-hour meeting.

Many laid the blame for the controversy on Jeff Powers, developer of the subdivision along Johnsville Road.

"We have been promised something for a long time, and Powers needs to come through," said Koreen Hughes of Freedom Avenue. "There are a lot of little kids here, and they have to have a place to go."

RTC Suzanne Packard, a newer resident of Longleaf Pine Road, has collected signatures on a petition opposing the project.

"That promise does not override our rights as homeowners," she said. "This community has grown."

Many of the newer home buyers, whose properties would adjoin access paths and the tot lot, said the developer never informed them of the project.

"These people didn't do their history," said Joe Hegarty, a resident of an older home. A tot lot is included in the homeowners association bylaws, which every homeowner accepts at time of settlement, he said.

Mr. Powers reviewed the history of the development, which was begun in 1988 with promises of common areas and a tot lot with a swing set, sliding board and picnic tables on 6 acres at its north end.

Mr. Powers, who took over the subdivision two years after it was begun, will also build access paths to the area through common areas -- also unknown to several new buyers -- and an emergency access road from Martz Road.

"I inherited approved drawings, when I took over in 1990," he said. "Implementation of the tot lot was to be at completion of the last phase."

With only a few unsold lots left, the county is requiring Mr. Powers to honor the agreement. At the request of residents, the county has given him a 30-day extension, while residents try to resolve the dilemma.

If the community offers him no other options at the end of that time, he said he is required, under the terms of his Public Works Agreement with the county, to build the playground.

"If I don't build, the county can take my bond and do it themselves," said Mr. Powers.

The homeowner association would be responsible for maintaining the area once it is built.

Several times, Mr. Chavis asked association members to schedule a vote before the deadline.

"Majority should rule," he said.

"I have mixed feelings on a vote," said Scott Blake. "I bought into this community with the understanding there would be a tot lot. It was to be a real benefit for me. Now, others can take away the reason that brought me here."

Mr. Hegarty said he sees no reason to vote on an item that has been part of association bylaws for seven years.

Ms. Packard called the indecision on a vote a stalling tactic.

"If they stall the vote long enough, Powers will be forced to put the tot lot in," she said.

Ms. Hughes said the vote is not the issue.

"Powers has caused this problem," she said. "It is sad. This was a cohesive neighborhood. Now there is division."

Ray Strozyk, association president, did not attend the meeting. He said he does not favor a vote.

"We would have to get 60 percent of our membership at a meeting to vote," he said. "I don't think that's possible."

That percentage would be about 78 residents. About 60 people attended the meeting Tuesday.

The three-member board of the homeowners association will meet this week to draft a position statement, Mr. Strozyk said. They also plan to consult legal counsel to review options.

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