Iager farm public debate ends; Developer, foes seek to sway board


Public debate about the Iager turkey farm in southern Howard County finally appears to have ended.

After more than 30 hearings on the fate of the 507-acre Fulton property, both sides made their final arguments yesterday morning before the Howard County Zoning Board in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City. The first hearing was held Sept. 1.

The board has not set a date for its first work session on the proposed Maple Lawn Farms Development, which calls for commercial space and almost 1,200 residential units.

Pete Oswald, vice president of the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association, made the closing statement for the opposition. Calling the proposed Iager development "an over-developed wolf in self-described Smart Growth clothing," he urged the board to reject the plan or scale it back.

As proposed, he said, it would burden area roads and would not be compatible with neighboring single-family homes.

"Each of us knows firsthand the dangers of over-development," he said. "We see it during our travel to work, our visits to neighboring counties, and we frequently read about the development travails of our county cousins in Northern Virginia."

Richard B. Talkin, the attorney representing developer Stewart Greenebaum, said growth is inevitable in southern Howard County. He praised the mixed-use Maple Lawn Farms development, saying it would provide housing for diverse income levels, plentiful open space for residents and much-needed commercial space in a county that is running out of undeveloped land.

"What this case is really about is whether a small, determined group of citizens can thwart what is best for Howard County," he said.

Maple Lawn Farms would have mostly single-family detached homes, along with apartments and townhouses.

Opponents object to the higher-density and less-expensive homes. Oswald said such homes would not be compatible with the surrounding community, which consists of single-family detached homes. He said there is an average of one home per 1.3 acres.

"Few would disagree that increasing the similarity of housing types and lot sizes enhances compatibility," he said.

Talkin said Greenebaum feels strongly about providing moderate-income housing for police officers, firefighters and teachers.

The higher-density homes are better than the alternative, he said.

"The type of development [opponents] advocate is recognized as wasteful sprawl," he said. "It is wasteful to contemplate this land being developed at low density, thereby forcing the natural growth of the county to other areas that are less able to accommodate growth."

Oswald said yesterday that he objected to Talkin's attempts to paint him and his neighbors as elitists who don't want teachers and police officers living next door.

"We are not nimbys, racists, elitists, xenophobes or liars," he said. "We are teachers, government workers, painters, researchers, health care professionals, housewives and retirees.

"We simply don't want our quality of life jeopardized by overcrowded roads, constant redistricting of our children and by increases in our already heavy tax burden."

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