Nelson Billingsley has seen the many houses of Clinton Acres go up a half-mile northwest of his farm; he has wrestled over the right-of-way for a road with the developers of Heatherwicke, another subdivision, on his western border.
And now, because amendments to the 10-year water and sewer plan have been approved by the Prince George's County Council, Billingsley's temperate farm life is threatened again, he says, as the builders of Tobacco Knolls prepare to put up yet another cluster of houses on his eastern side.
Billingsley, his wife and sister are just three of hundreds of people who will be directly affected by the new construction permitted by the Council action. Some will only see it when that empty lot down the block is finally built upon; others will notice new additions to an already existing development; but there are those, like Billingsley, who will find their whole way of life changing because of the far-reaching, but little known document.
The water and sewer plan sets the pace of development throughout the county, by scheduling the allocation of water and sewer hookups required for new construction over a 10-year period. As capacity is released in one of the five sewage basins, the Council allocates its usage to commercial, industrial and residential development throughout the county.
This year 134 landowners and developers requested changes in the current growth plan, attempting to speed up the official time schedule and make their properties immediately eligible for water and sewer. Only 48 applicants, however, were allowed to move up to the immediate service category, but these approvals would permit new construction starts on more than 3,500 houses and 2,500 townhouses in areas scattered throughout the county.
Tobacco Knolls, once a farm owned by Franklin Robinson and then the site of a sand and gravel operation, is one of these. It, along with two other development in the central and eastern parts of the county now in the advanced planning stages since Council approval, are representative of the way a paper action made in a chamber hearing room in Upper Marlboro by 11 elected officials takes on added meaning as it is fleshed out with the sticks of construction.
A 194-acre track north of Dyson Road between Rtes. 301 and 5, Tobacco Knolls will lie in the heart of southern Prince George's. Billingsley, who once was a justice of the peace, farms corn and beans on the front of his land.He, too, has a sand and gravel operation at the back. Relatives of Franklin Robinson have tobacco fields nearby.
The further Tobacco Knolls is now a desolate place - barren of trees, pitted and scarred by machines that took tons of sand and gravel out of the ground. The work left behind deep ponds and , according to Billingsley, quicksand.
It is the condition of the land that bothers Billingsley most about the new development. "It's not so much the people. You get people everywhere - although we don't know how we're going to keep people out of our house, or out of the one near the Robinson property. We"ll just have to put up a high fence or something.
"It's just that I wouldn't want to see houses built under the condition that the property is in today. It's not treating the public fair."
William Knight, who represented Robinson Farm Inc, before the Council in the firm's bid for water and sewer, said the owners plan extensive grading and site preparation to get the property ready by this spring. The initial plans calls for 133 houses clustered in cul-de-sacs.
"This was a non-conforming gravel pit so the sand and gravel operation didn't have to contour the land when it was finished with it. If we didn't do anything to it, it would sit there like it is forever. The site preparation is very expensive, so we will use the roughest soils for open space, the compacted earth for house foundations."
The soil is ready and waiting for construction at another development site, this one in the northwestern section of the county. In the Hillmeade section of Bowie, Katherine Wade picks the last brussel sprouts and turnips of the season from a garden on land owned by her family, the Daiseys, for more than 70 years. The family farm house, now occupied by tenants, sits in the background on the ridge that runs along Daisey Lane.
Soon, Ralph Rocks will begin construction just south of the lane on a new section of Camelot, a neat little subdivision of $65,000 houses on roads with names like king Arthur Way, Sir Lancelot Road and Sir Walter Road.
Just down the street from the turretted entry way, rows of blue pipes, sitting on the brown earth beside a John Deere tractor, wait to be planted in the fields beyond. When the sewer is in place, construction can immediately begin on 140 single-family houses on the 73-acre plot.
Wade is reconciled to the new influx of people the Camelot extension will produce. She is pleased that the family "compound" is still intact, that the family has resisted all attempts from others to buy the land. The Daiseys' family contracting business on the south side of the property sends huge trucks rumbling down the lane each day, out to Hillmeade Road past the quiet homes of Camelot.
The truck traffic and new traffic the development will create pose the gretest potential problems in the area, according to planners. Camelot is just off Rte. 450 across from open fields and turf farms. But each single-family home produces and average car use of eight trips a day, and the new homes could put 1,000 more cars on an already heavily used portion of the single-lane road.
Roads will be a major problem further into the center of the county, where the Beckett-Orem trust plans a 400 single-family home development just south of George Palmer Highway and north of Admore-Adwick Road.
The roads along the southern end of the heavily wooded property are more like gulleys, with steep mud walls lined with gnarled tree trunks that rise sharply above the small cars beneath. The builders here must widen Ardmore-Ardwick Road before development of any new community.
William Beckett, one of the trustees for Beckett-Orem which is selling the land to a developer for the final construction, said 20 to 30 lots should be prepared for a builder within two years. Now small neat homes of the existing black community on the northern fringe of Glenarden line the roads to the West of the development. To the east is the Enterprises Road Golf Course, where zoning is restricted to two-acre development. Beckett's pions call for the denser zoning of the clustered plan such as the one in Tobacco Knolls.
But Beckett says the market is "softer," that the demand isn't as great in the immediate area as it has been in the past. And Knight is cautious about the success of Tobacco Knolls.
He says Tobacco Knolls "is just a small development, only 137 homes with a land capacity for a total of 265. It may not go anywhere, either. So many projects put home models up to test the market and if they are not selling, will just sit on the land until buyers come around.
"The effect of this place won't really be felt until five or six years from now."