As Boys' Latin School moves ahead with plans for a $3 million gymnasium expansion, neighbors fear that the project will mar backyard views and bring more traffic to their community.
Some neighbors also suggest that the Lake Avenue school tried to sneak its plans through without alerting residents in the Lakehurst section of Baltimore County. School officials concede they are moving quickly, but say they have been open with expansion plans, have met all county requirements and have notified neighbors, though perhaps not as promptly as they could have.
"The concern is that they are doing it without neighborhood input," said Elizabeth Phelan, president of the Lakehurst Community Association, which is considering appealing the county's approval of the project.
Boys' Latin officials and their architects have met twice with community representatives. But by the time meetings were held, the plans had been completed and the county had approved, neighbors say.
School officials will meet again with neighbors after completing a landscape plan to provide a buffer between the gym and houses.
"We had good community relations before this, and we sure want to have them afterward," said Headmaster Mercer Neale, who acknowledged that the project's "size and scope have added to the shock" in the community.
Additions to the north and south ends of Iglehart Gym will more than double its square footage, triple its seating capacity and add two basketball courts, a weight room and wrestling facilities.
To get the space needed for the three side-by-side courts, the section of the proposed building nearest West Lake Avenue will have an arch rising about 12 feet above the present roof line.
Lakehurst resident Leonard C. Redmond III said Neale notified him last summer of the school's interest in enlarging the gym. But neither he nor other neighbors saw plans until a few weeks ago.
Though the arch of the new building will "loom above our deck" and perhaps change the feel of the community, Redmond is hopeful that landscaping will blunt its impact.
As for Boys' Latin's delay in publicizing its plans, "I think they were just in a rush to get it going," he said.
"We're trying to meet a Nov. 1  finish date," said Jay Crider, the school's director of facilities. Once construction starts in the spring, the gym will be closed, he added.
Denying that any attempt to sidestep the community, Neale said that he could have avoided some ill feelings. "I did not call the community immediately after the board meeting [at which plans were approved in October] and, in retrospect, that probably would have made things better."
Because the project conforms to zoning codes and is considered relatively small, the school did not have to hold a community meeting and submit plans to a hearing officer, said Donald Rascoe, development manager for the county's Office of Permits and Development Management. Instead, it received approval from the Development Review Committee.
The association would have to file an appeal by Dec. 11, Phelan said. That probably wouldn't stop the project, but could delay it.
Although Phelan expressed concern about more traffic, Neale said games at the gym would continue to draw the same number of spectators and the increased capacity is to accommodate the