APPLETON - Residents of this rural crossroads community in the northeast corner of the state are expected to turn out in force at a public hearing Tuesday evening to oppose a proposed housing development in their neighborhood, which they argue could affect the entire county.
Aston Development Group Inc. of Newark, Del., wants to build 300 single-family homes and a golf course at Telegraph Road (Route 273) and Appleton Road (Route 316). It would be called Aston Pointe.
The new golf course is designed to lure the 83-year-old Newark Country Club across the border to a site featuring a larger course and modern facilities. But there's a hitch in the plan.
To develop the property the way he wants, William R. Spritzinger, president of Aston, needs Cecil County to grant him an amendment to its recently approved master water and sewer plan, a change that would provide public sewerage to the property and allow him to drill wells to supply a new water plant.
The approval of such an amendment by the county commissioners would set a precedent and allow any landowner in the county to ask for the same treatment, argues Owen Thorne, chairman of the Appleton Regional Community Alliance.
"If someone wanted to build 40 houses on their 20 acres, anywhere in the county, the commissioners wouldn't be able to say no," said Thorne. "Every other landowner would be able to say, 'You gave Billy Spritzinger his amendment. Give me mine or I will sue.'"
If Spritzinger gets his way, Thorne added, it would be impossible for the county to deny a similar amendment to a New Jersey company that wants to build 749 homes on a 146-acre site near Cherry Hill.
The proposed Aston Pointe development and its potential for altering the character of a county that prides itself on its agricultural heritage has citizens alarmed.
Tuesday's public meeting on the project was moved to Cecil Community College to accommodate the anticipated turnout.
A hearing on the proposal last summer attracted between 300 and 500 people.
"That's a lot of people in this county," said Nelson K. Bolender, president of the Board of County Commissioners. He said he anticipates as many people at Tuesday's hearing.
After the hearing, the five commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to grant Aston Development the amendment.
"We just updated the master water and sewer plan," said Commissioner Phyllis Kilby. "I'm opposed to granting any amendment so soon."
Kilby expressed concern that extending sewerage to the Aston Pointe project would open the entire corridor bordered by Telegraph, Appleton and Fletchwood roads and the Delaware border, to development.