County officials and residents of the Mayo Peninsula met Tuesday night to discuss a proposal to open up construction of private property and beach amenities in the area that has left many locals concerned.

Over 200 residents gathered at the Mayo Elementary School cafeteria to address a panel that included County Executive Steve Schuh, as well as representatives from the Department of Public Works, Office of Planning and Zoning and Recreation and Parks.

Those in attendance expressed worries that lifting an eight-year moratorium on construction on the peninsula could lead to an influx of massive town homes, gridlocked traffic and delays in emergency services.

Matt O'Neal, 34 of Mayo, said that the heavy traffic and lack of places to park at the event on Tuesday already illustrated the gripes of many residents — that the county's first concern should be with the peninsula's infrastructure.

"I think it's an excellent microcosm of what we are concerned with here," O'Neal said. "There is inadequate parking, inadequate seating just for this meeting itself. This is a good example of how disconnected Schuh is from the people of Mayo."

One young boy, identified only as Owen, read a question off a piece of paper to Schuh asking how he will try to protect the surrounding environment and children while expanding construction, and therefore, the amount of people in the area.

"We are committing more resources and human resources at any time in history to maintain the area's environmental quality," Schuh said. "We are trying to make it more accessible so people beyond just immediate neighbors can enjoy it."

Upon saying that, a woman from the crowd yelled out "but more people means more trash." Schuh did not respond to the comment.

But the animosity expanded beyond just the proposed plans. Schuh was greeted with a chorus of boos when he approached the podium in the cafeteria to an overflow crowd. The boos continued when he accidentally referred to South River High School as "South County High School."

Beth Nelson, a 55-year-old resident of the Loch Haven community, said that Schuh, while well-intentioned, never truly understood the impact the plans for construction would have on the peninsula's residents.

"He's trying to make a point about what he's inherited, and I think everybody understands that," Nelson said. "But this has such a huge impact on our daily lives and I think he needs to get that. We may not be a huge part of Anne Arundel County, but he needs to get that."

Residents expressed less trepidation about enhancements to Beverly Triton Beach Park, which has been owned by Anne Arundel County since the 1980s.

A few speakers said the proposed additions to the 341-acre park — a few gazebos, a parking lot, bathrooms with running water and improvements to trails — might attract masses of visitors to the peninsula that could disrupt the neighborhood and contribute to pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

Cindy Williams, 51 of Edgewater, said her main concern is not about the plans for the beach. The bigger problem, she said, is making sure that current residents and visitors have adequate roads on which to travel.

"I've read over and over again that the people who live on this peninsula are trying to deny access to the water," Williams said. "That's not what we are about. We just feel like it makes sense to do things properly. You build up the infrastructure first."

To other people concerned about a rapid population growth, Schuh said it is very unlikely that huge developments like 500-unit town homes could pop up in the area.

He said mass construction wasn't feasible because South River High School is at its capacity, and major residential construction can't occur if the high school the area feeds into is full.

"The closure of South River High School won't end until fiscal year '21 or '22," Schuh said, "which means there won't be any large-scale development for a while."

Once again crowds shouted out, "stop using the term large-scale" and "what does that mean?"

"I'm sorry, but that's my answer," Schuh said.

Eight years ago, the county placed a construction moratorium on the peninsula to stop new developments after the area's water treatment facility reached maximum capacity.

But there have been talks to lift that moratorium in the next eight months, after the county began work on connecting a water treatment facility in Annapolis to the one in Mayo Peninsula with a sewer main, Schuh said.

The pipe, which began construction in 2015, is set for completion early next year, Schuh said. Once it is finished, he added, it can be expected that the moratorium will be lifted.

The construction on the beach property and surrounding areas could begin as early as fiscal 2019 and reach completion the following year.

Until more focus can be placed on the roads and schools in the area, O'Neal said, it is unlikely residents will get on board with other changes.

"The infrastructure itself cannot facilitate the residents that are already here," O'Neal said. "Better roads, better schools, better fire and emergency services — I think that must be handled before any new influx of parks or residential housing."



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