Richard Silber and his neighbors were angry when they discovered subsidized housing was being built on a field just down the street. They posted protest signs in the yards of their new Gaithersburg luxury homes. That wasn't the warmest welcome for the subsidized families, Silber acknowledged.
But when both groups of homeowners in the Pheasant Run development learned that an office and technology park, with parking for 1,689 cars, was planned for the 30-acre cornfield bordering their neighborhood, they were all angry.
Soon after, they learned the city had plans to change Pheasant Run Drive from a two-lane residential street to a "four-lane primary highway." By the time they learned that the office park -- Tech Park 270 -- planned its main entrance on the street, those who had subsidized houses and those who did not knew they had plenty in common.
"It's given us an issue that brings us together," said Silber, a personnel manager for a Gaithersburg firm. "It's given us some common ground we can unite on."
Silber, and the owners of 24 other non-subsidized homes, have filed suit against Pheasant Run's builders, the Pulte Home Corp., each demanding $700,000 in damage and claiming they were not told of the subsidized houses. Some families have also said they should have been informed of Tech Park 270.
One woman who owns a subsidized house on Pheasant Run said she realizes Silber and his friends "are worried about their property values" and have nothing against her or others in subsidized houses. "It will affect everybody," the woman, who asked not to be identified, said of the industrial development plans.
"I was so excited when I got here," she said. "I was so thankful." Neighbors told her the day after she moved in that the road in front of her house soon would be a four-lane highway. "It's very disheartening," she said.
Pheasant Run, which will total 216 homes when the final 55 are built, stretches across former farm land on a hillside near the junction of Clopper and Quice Orchard roads. Most of the houses are two-story, single-family buildings. Many have pillars and verandas.
There are also several two-story duplexes that look like single-family homes. The 24 homes subsidized through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the county are among the duplexes and indistinguishable in appearance. The only differences are internal: They have no basements, no fireplaces.
Gaithersburg Planning Director Jennifer Russel said the original developer, who prepared the land for Pulte, wanted to set aside 15 percent of the homes for moderate-income families. The city of Gaithersburg, which is responsible for its own planning and zoning, agreed to the plan.
Residents who paid full price claim in their suit against Pulte that this arrangement, like the planned Tech Park, was one of the many things the large land builder decided not to tell them. In papers filed in court, Pulte denied wrongdoing. Attorneys representing the company were not available for comment. The suit is scheduled for jury trial in October 1984.
Meanwhile, the neighborhood is awash in stories of alleged wrongs -- past, present and impending. They speak of the time the city changed their street name from Watkin Mill Road to Pheasant Run Drive without telling them. Others point to a row of young trees planted on the edge of the road where two more lanes will be added. Was it to prevent erosion or to mask the future project? they ask.
No date has been set for road-widening and most of Tech Park 270 has yet to be built.
But like many of his neighbors, Richard Lurix, who moved to the development in 1981, is already worried about the traffic.
"I used to live in Montgomery Village," he said. "I was particularly concerned about the traffic. Out here you have more space, less density. And it's convenient."
But, he said, he was fooled. "These houses here -- you can't sell them if you want to. And it's going to be the same traffic."
Elizabeth Chau lives with her husband and their 4-month-old daughter at the intersection planned for the Tech Park 270 entrance. She said she knew of Tech Park but was not told the entrance would be opposite her house. "We were just absolutely shocked when we heard there was going to be an entrance here," she said. "If our mortgage comes through we will be moving in a couple of months."
Russel said widening Pheasant Run Drive into a four-lane road has been planned for 16 years and that the Tech Park 270 area was zoned for such development before the Pheasant Run homes were built. She said city planners believe the two projects are compatible and noted that Tech Park 270 developers are responsible for widening Clopper Road and a nearby intersection, where they also have an entrance.
"I don't think the impact is going to be quite like residents feel it is," she said.
At least one change may come from all the debate: The problems of Pheasant Run residents have prompted the city council to ask planners to draft real-estate disclosure legislation to be presented to the council later this year, said Russel.