Last summer, a group of Ellicott City activists successfully turned back an effort they said would have turned Route 103 into a corridor of strip centers, fast-food restaurants and office buildings.
This time, the reaction to another plan for Route 103 is vastly different.
The Montgomery Road Citizens for Responsible Growth will not oppose a Michigan-based company's request to build a day care center for 140 children on a 1.7-acre plot on the north side of Route 103, just west of Route 104.
The Howard County Planning Board will review the request at 9: 30 a.m. tomorrow in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City. The Board of Appeals will make a final decision March 9.
David Catania, a spokesman for the organization, said the facility will benefit parents and children who live in surrounding neighborhoods.
"The Montgomery Road Citizens for Responsible Growth has concluded that the day care center will communitize, instead of commercialize, the area," said Catania, who is also treasurer of the Wheatfields Homeowners Association. "So we will not fight it."
The group's position is in stark contrast to August, when it vigor ously opposed construction of a Wendy's fast-food restaurant and an office building on Route 103 near Long Gate shopping center.
Arguing that the two proposals conflicted with the residential appeal of the corridor, the organization persuaded the county Zoning Board to deny a request to rezone two parcels of residentially zoned land to commercial.
But LaDonna Isibue, a member of the board of directors of the Wheatfields homeowners' group, said there's a major difference between a fast-food restaurant and a day care center.
"The center is like a church or a YMCA not like a retail store where you have hundreds of strangers running in and out," she said. "It's a community builder."
Catania stressed that the organization welcomes certain types of development.
"We're not against commercialization," he said. "We're for responsible growth, and we consider it to be a responsible institution."
Childtime Childcare Inc., which operates 261 day care centers throughout the country, must obtain a special exception to build the 8,240-square-foot facility because the proposed site -- which sits opposite the Waterment shopping center -- is zoned for residential use.
If the Board of Appeals approves the exception, the day care center would take care of about 140 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 12 years, and it would be open from 6: 30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The high number of children worried Cathi Higgins, a member of the Wheatfields homeowners' board.
"In a couple of years, neighbors around there are going to be tired of listening to the kids yelling on the playground and will look to sell their property to commercial developers," said Higgins, who managed day care centers for 20 years. "I'm really very torn about it."
But Grace Kubofcik, a resident of the Garrien Orchards neighborhood for more than 30 years, said she thinks the facility will fit nicely.
"There's no question in my mind that there's a need for this in the county," Kubofcik said. "From my perspective, I don't see anything that wouldn't be compatible."
Pub Date: 2/10/99