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Some Weverton residents peeved about paving project

October 26, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WEVERTON -- A state project to turn a gravel parking lot for the Appalachian Trail into a paved, lighted commuter parking lot has Weverton-area residents worried the project will attract crime, decrease home values and scare away bald eagles.

Improvements to the lot on Weverton Road off Md. 67 were requested by a trail group and will cost about $450,000, State Highway Administration spokeswoman Kellie Boulware said.

Before the project, the lot did not have lights and could hold only 10 to 12 vehicles, Boulware said. When the lot was full, some people parked on nearby grass, she said.

"We were approached by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club group to see if anything could be done to provide a shared-use facility" that would serve carpoolers as well as trail users, Boulware said.

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Construction is about halfway finished on the new lot, which will have 25 spaces and six lighting fixtures, she said. The funding came from a state fund for ride-sharing improvements, she said.

Some neighbors say the improvements were unnecessary and complain that they were not offered an opportunity to provide feedback.

"To us, it feels like another punch in the stomach for South County," nearby resident Nancy Nicolosi said.

In a letter to Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly K. Swaim-Staley dated Oct. 19, Diane Younkins, who lives near the lot, questioned why area residents were not informed of the project or invited to a public hearing.

Younkins said break-ins, prostitution pickups and drug problems were already common in the area, and a remote parking lot would only increase those problems. Lighting, she said, was not a solution because the lot is not visible from the highway.

Younkins also said the environmental assessment the state performed on the project did not factor in light pollution that would be created by the lot's constant lighting. She noted that bald eagles nest just across the Potomac River from Weverton and said, while she was not a biologist, she was concerned that the orange glow created by the lights might disturb the birds, which are not known for living in urban areas.

Younkins said the introduction of lighting to an area that was rural and dark also could negatively affect home values.

"I live along a ridge directly across the lot where the lights will glow," Younkins wrote. "Our family intentionally leaves the outdoor lights off unless absolutely necessary to keep Weverton Gap dark. We can see the Milky Way, for now. How does one measure that impact?"

Boulware said as part of its environmental assessment, the State Highway Administration consulted the state's Department of Natural Resources to ensure there would be no environmental effects.

She said the state would take the community's concerns into consideration, but lighting was necessary in the improved lot for safety.

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