Residents concerned about plans for medical center Shipley's Choice group questions UM officials


After three months of accusations and denials, a neighborhood group and representatives of the University of Maryland Medical System finally sat down to discuss their differences over a medical complex the university is planning.

For 90 minutes Monday night, the owner of the land at the southeast corner of Benfield Boulevard and Veterans Highway and representatives of the medical system answered -- and sometimes refused to answer -- questions from members of the Shipley's Choice Community Association Inc.

The association is concerned that the proposed 120,000-square-foot office center will increase traffic and disrupt the residential atmosphere.

The first phase of the plan, which could begin as early as next month, calls for construction of a 30,000-square-foot, two-story office building and a 135-space parking lot. Three more office buildings would follow.

Stewart Greenebaum, the land owner, said he empathized with Shipley's Choice Community Association Inc., but the project was within the boundaries of the covenants of the neighborhood.

For example, he noted, the covenants state a building is not to be more than 35 feet in height and a "black chain-link fence" must enclose part of the property -- requirements that are included in the plans.

"We're not only adhering to the word of the covenants, but also the spirit of the covenants," he said. "We take our jobs seriously."

But Mr. Greenebaum refused to answer some concerns, saying questions about the finances of the university and the reasons for the project were "not germane to this meeting."

The meeting, at the Pasadena offices of Harms & Associates, the architects of the project, also was attended by County Council President Diane R. Evans and members of the Ben Oaks Civic Association.

"They gave us a chance to get some of our questions answered," said John Lipman, president of Shipley's Choice Community Association Inc. "At least, they've listened to our concerns."

Richard Waskom, president of the Ben Oaks Civic Association, voiced his community's concerns over the potential runoff damage to the sewer systems in the neighborhood.

Mr. Waskom asked the university to adhere to 1994 water runoff standards that require a system to capture and retain the first inch of rainfall, a half-inch increase from 1983 standards.

Mr. Greenebaum pledged to work with Ben Oaks if adopting the 1994 standards can be done without further interference to construction.

"We'll see how it plays out," Mr. Waskom said. "If they upgrade to 1994 specs and don't violate the sediment controls, I think we'll be in good shape."

The Shipley's Choice Homeowners Association, which represents a number of community residents, is not opposed to the project.

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