32-home project will be renamed; Freetown history will be reflected, but plan worries residents


In response to neighbors' concerns, the developers of a proposed 32-home subdivision in Freetown will change the new community's name to reflect the rich history of the African-American neighborhood.

The neighbors object to the size of the project, however, maintaining that it is too big for the 11.5-acre parcel slated for development.

"The name is not the major problem; the resistance is to the number of houses," said Willie Johnson, president of the Freetown Improvement Association.

Mountain Valley, the working name for the proposed subdivision, will be changed to Bouyer's Heritage, Bouyer's Landing or another name to commemorate the Bouyer family, once-prominent landowners in the Glen Burnie community. The land is owned by descendants of Sherman Bouyer, most of whom have moved from Freetown.

"We'd love to change the name to incorporate Freetown's history into the new community," said Chris O'Meara, a partner in Baldwin Corp., the Arnold company that plans to buy the property and is in the preliminary stages of developing the subdivision.

O'Meara met with residents this week to answer their questions about the homes to be built on the wooded parcel near Freetown Road and New Freetown Road.

"It was really interesting to learn about Freetown," O'Meara said. "I had no idea."

O'Meara said she plans to have more meetings with residents to choose a suitable name for the development.

Freetown was established in the 1840s by free blacks who bought land on the Marley Neck peninsula. They established a thriving farming community, and African-Americans owned nearly 1,000 acres by the 1880s.

Freetown was a destination for runaway slaves, and during this century it became a refuge from a segregated society.

It remained a farming community until after World War II, when suburban development began to encroach. As Freetown landowners sold property to developers, longtime residents watched the community shrink.

The latest development proposal -- Mountain Valley -- prompted dozens of Freetown homeowners to voice their concerns at a county zoning hearing in July. In addition to complaints about more traffic and fewer trees, residents expressed fear that the town's rich history would be forgotten.

"Each time there has been a new development in our community, Freetown loses a part of its history and the legacy of its people," Freetown Community Association members wrote to county zoning officials.

"When the developers come in, they rename the areas once identified as a part of Freetown. Eventually there will be no Freetown," they wrote.

Neighbors say the promised name change is important, but the density of the proposed subdivision is their main concern.

"We all know that's too many houses for 11 acres, even though it's all within the county code," said Walter Caldwell, who grew up in Freetown on land his father bought in the 1930s. He, his parents and his eight siblings live in a compound-type arrangement of homes on family property adjacent to the proposed 32-home project.

Zoning regulations allow five houses per acre.

O'Meara said her company could put more houses on the property than it is planning, "but we wouldn't have a community with nice lots."

O'Meara said it's in the developer's interest to leave as much of a wooded area as possible.

"From a marketing point of view, I'd rather have mature trees there," she said. "We're going to leave as much of a buffer as possible between the lots."

She said the purchase price for the Bouyer property would be determined by the number of houses that can be built on the land.

"This is their inheritance," she said.

Pub Date: 9/10/99

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