Residents, developer disagree on project Neighbors try to overturn waiver allowing 11 homes


In an effort to stop development of the last undisturbed plot of land in its neighborhood, a lawyer for a group of Worthington residents argued last night before the Howard County Board of Appeals that the developer provided misleading information to the planning department to get the project approved.

The lawyer, Thomas E. Dernoga, said that the 10-acre site is environmentally sensitive and not suited for development. He charged that Ron Wildman, owner of the property, tried to conceal the existence of a stream to get a waiver from the Department of Planning and Zoning to permit grading and road construction.

But Paul Johnson, deputy county solicitor, argued that the waiver was "completely justified."

After 2 1/2 hours of very technical examination and cross-examination of one witness -- Geoffrey Schoming, a planning specialist for the Howard Soil Conservation District -- the four members of the appeals board at the hearing seemed thoroughly confused.

Board members had not cast a vote by deadline on whether to override the waiver, but during a 9 p.m. recess, board chairman Jerry L. Rushing said he doubted there would be a vote last night.

"At the rate we're moving, I would be surprised," he said.

The next board meeting will be held Oct. 8, Rushing said.

Wildman, who heads a company that advises developers about environmental issues, wants to build 11 homes on the property and sell them for about $250,000 each.

Planning and zoning officials approved the plan in October.

But neighbors appealed, saying Wildman's construction would lead to erosion, disturb flood patterns and pollute the Chesapeake Bay.

Worthington residents tried to make their case before the Board of Appeals on July 28, but, instead, spent the meeting debating about proper appeal procedures.

Liz Entwisle, a representative of the county planning department, said the appeal names only resident John L. Baker as the appellant, not the community, and therefore the appeal concerns only issues that affect Baker directly.

Community members thought her position was unfair because it limited their ability to present evidence that could prevent development.

After a heated 40-minute debate, the board agreed to give the community more time to find a lawyer to prepare their appeal.

Lee Walker Oxenham, a community activist who lives near the proposed development, said yesterday that she and other concerned citizens plan to fight the development every step of the way. She said if they lose at the Board of Appeals, they intend to take it to the next level -- Circuit Court.

Oxenham said they also intend to challenge any future waivers.

"This may be one of those 12-year battles," she said.

Pub Date: 9/23/98


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