Howard County Zoning Board hearings on Stewart J. Greenebaum's controversial plan to convert a turkey farm in Fulton into a community of homes and office buildings likely will continue well into the early part of next year.
Last night marked the 10th hearing before the Zoning Board since it took up the case last month. Three of the developer's witnesses have testified, with others expected to be called to testify in support of the plan in the next few months.
Greenebaum blames area residents -- many of whom remain opposed to his plans to develop the 507-acre farm -- for dragging out the hearings with extensive questioning of his expert witnesses.
"I suspect that delay is their intention," he said yesterday. "At this point, there is nothing that we can do to influence the length of the case. None of our witnesses, including myself, testified for more than two hours. Much of the time has been spent on cross-examination."
John Breitenberg, who is leading the opposition to the proposed development, blamed Greene-baum for the unusually slow pace of the proceedings.
"All of the witnesses that the petitioner has called have provided irrelevant information to the Zoning Board," Breitenberg said. "I don't see where much of the testimony that has been presented so far is relevant to whether the petitioner gains approval."
For more than a year, residents living in and around Fulton have complained that if Greenebaum wins approval to build his community of 1,198 residential units and office buildings, it would severely affect traffic and cause crowding in nearby schools.
"I'm worried that the schools will not be able to accommodate the development," said Lou Martino, a Clarksville resident who has two children attending nearby schools.
Greenebaum has said that his project would be phased in over 10 years, with construction to begin in 2001. He said traffic congestion would not be a major issue because most residents who live in the development would also work there.
With the continuation of the hearings, attendance by residents opposed to the project has begun to dwindle as well. On the first night of hearings, several hundred people came. But last night, only about two dozen were present.
At this point, all parties acknowledge the hearings may go into next year.
"I don't see this case ending before this year," said Zoning Board member Christopher J. Merdon. "We're going slow, but we're trying to give everyone the opportunity to ask questions and to be a part of the process."
Said Allan H. Kittleman, another member: "If the case turns out to be longer, I can live with that. We just want everyone to feel that they had a fair hearing. That's the most important thing."