December 14, 2017
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Our Top Stories Of 2017

Zach Sparks
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December 5, 2017

What makes a year memorable? Is it the arrival of a new community resource, like the 354,162-square-foot Severna Park High School? What about decisions that will have a ripple effect on the future: A resolution against racism, the defeat of a residential development that could cause environmental harm? How about the achievements of local sports teams and residents demonstrating their cooking chops or trivia prowess on TV? As 2018 approaches, indulge in a look back at the news that had everybody talking.

Winter

When the newly built Severna Park High opened its doors to students and teachers on January 5, community members celebrated the completion of a long and sometimes trying years-long project to make a 21st-century facility for the town’s nationally ranked school.

“All of us are part of history, and we will continue to build on that tradition of excellence,” said Principal Patrick Bathras as he addressed the crowd gathered in the gym to celebrate the school’s grand opening. “It is very exciting for our dream to become a reality today not only for our students and our faculty but also for our community members who have supported and continue to support this great school. For that, we are very thankful.”

The school, which cost $130.2 million, is three stories tall and encompasses more than 100 classrooms, including a main gym as well as auxiliary gym and fitness lab; a main auditorium as well as a black-box theater, TV studio, dance studio and music studios; a professional-quality kitchen for family and consumer sciences; science, art and computer labs; and an up-to-date media center.

While the modern school came as welcome news to many, the State of the Magothy address at Anne Arundel Community College on February 24 delivered details of a setback: The river’s health declined from a 33 percent D to a 28 percent D in one year. Speaking on behalf of the Magothy River Association, which consists of more than 350 members, the group’s president, Paul Spadaro, attributed the low grade to overdevelopment, stormwater runoff and septic systems, which flush into the river.

While enormous amounts of pollution were the topic of discussion on that February night, gigantic foods were on everyone’s mind during January 20, 21 23 and 24 and February 4 as Food Network aired an episode of “Ginormous Food” that featured The Breakfast Shoppe along with Famous Seafood in Baltimore and Champs Pizza & Subs in Glen Burnie. During the episode, The Breakfast Shoppe featured the crowd favorite, backpacker’s pie, an omelet with everything but the kitchen sink — deviled eggs dolloped in three ways (crispy pancetta and fried shallot, crab and shrimp ceviche, and portabella ragout), and, in keeping with the show’s premise, a dish made in colossal portion: fall harvest pancakes, stacking in at 1.5 feet high, 27 inches in diameter and 30 pounds.

Also in February, Severna Park author Stephanie Verni published her third book, “Inn Significant,” which follows a woman named Millie who overcomes loss by helping with the family business on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

From January through March, the county council deliberated on changes to the county’s cluster development laws. The amended legislation would have renamed cluster development as “preservation-oriented development,” reorganized the county code for clarity, required that 30 percent of the land on such a development be designated for open space and set the minimum lot size for those projects at 5 acres.

Although the bill failed 5-2, it invited a debate. “As imperfect as [the legislation] is and as unhappy with it in its present form as most of us are, it’s better than the current situation,” said Greater Severna Park Council President Maureen Carr-York.

Spring

After choosing “Atlantis” as the theme for the 28th installment of Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival, Severna Park High School Stage Company performed in the school’s state-of-the-art auditorium for the first time. The show started its two-weekend, seven-performance run on March 9 with song decades spanning from the ‘30s to the ‘90s and comprising the genres of soul, pop, jazz, Motown, gospel, metal, and, of course, rock ‘n’ roll.

At the ASPIRE community leadership dinner and awards ceremony later in March, 11 individuals accepted recognition for their hard work in improving the lives of those around them. The 2017 honorees were Joan Cunningham (Berrywood Community Association), Growth Action Network Executive Director Ann Fligsten, Magothy River Association volunteers Charles and Andrea Germain, Tom Lerario (the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce), Erin O’Neil (the Greater Severna Park Council), Susan Origlio of Partners in Care, Paul Striffler (Severna Park Kiwanis), artist Joan Machinchick, local historian and author Alberta Shelton Stornetta, and Marianne Taylor, who wrote “My River Speaks.”

In the first-ever “Project: Lip Dub” video, directed and produced by junior Nolan Marks, Severna Park students flaunted their lipsyncing skills on April 3.

“It’s an opportunity for our school to come together to have some fun and show off this building, which has been the hub of community conversation for the past couple years,” Marks said. “It’s a memory that we’ll be able to share, and maybe even make some neighboring schools and communities jealous.”

Also bringing the community together was the Lawfit Challenge. During Healthy Anne Arundel Month in April, former Navy SEAL Stew Smith trained police officers and sheriff’s deputies for free at the Severna Park Community Center.

“It’s a great opportunity for our department as a whole,” said Ryan Frashure, a spokesperson for the Anne Arundel County Police Department. “Health is very important, especially for first responders.”

Focused not just on health but also delicious food, 11-year-old St. John the Evangelist student and Arnold resident Caitlyn White appeared on the Food Network show “Chopped Junior,” taking home first place for her culinary creations. Caitlyn’s courses consisted of an Italian wedding soup with wilted greens and bacon for the appetizer, a steak sandwich with bell peppers, marinara and beet leaf chips for the entrée, and a tropical cookie dough trifle with sugar cone crumble for dessert.

“I didn’t think when we first got there that she was going to win,” said Caitlyn’s mom, Cindi White. “And one of the reasons was when we showed up, one of the young men was like, ‘I’ve trained with this professional chef and here are my knives’… and Caitlyn’s like, ‘I cook in my kitchen … I think it’s more about creativity’ and she has a very even-keeled demeanor. I think that served her well.”

Perseverance served the Severna Park boys lacrosse team well as it found itself in a tight battle with Churchill at Stevenson University on May 24, playing from behind for almost the entire game before scoring late to take a 7-6 victory and the 4A/3A state championship. The achievement was the perfect bow on an undefeated season for Severna Park (20-0), giving the program its second consecutive state crown and seventh all-time.

Summer

Community events like the 42nd annual Severna Park Fourth of July Parade, Cape St. Claire’s annual strawberry festival and National Night Out reminded everyone about the importance of unity, as did a county council resolution denouncing racism. Following the murder of Second Lieutenant Wilbur Collins III — a tragic event investigated as a hate crime — the council discussed a resolution sponsored by Councilman Pete Smith.

“If we as a community don’t come together, you’re going to create more victims who will never forget how it feels to be minimized, to be denigrated, to be denied access, to be just made to feel like less than they are human,” Smith said before the resolution passed unanimously.

There was also widespread support for the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY2018) budget, which resulted in two notable tax cuts, $15.6 million for teacher salary increases, funding for 40 new public safety personnel and a happy county executive. The council voted to adopt the $1.5 billion budget on June 14.

Good things often come in small packages, but it’s what didn’t come that thrilled Severna Park residents in July. After negotiations with the Magothy River Association (MRA), Greater Severna Park Council (GSPC) and Robinson Retreat community, Koch Homes found an alternative to building the 31-townhome Cattail Commons neighborhood that was first proposed in February 2014.

“We put up a very good fight, and the Magothy River Association has a long history of staying in these fights for a long time,” said the group’s president, Paul Spadaro. “We held the march for the yellow perch, talked about the importance of the wetlands and the beaver habitat. For three years, we’ve been writing letters to the county, urging them to stop overdevelopment. Those letters and those inquiries did not fall on deaf ears.”

Families flocked to the Severna Park Library on August 21 to grab a pair of eclipse-viewing glasses donated by STAR_Net, which partnered with NASA and Google to provide libraries across the country with free glasses. While the Severna Park Library was able to get 1,000 pairs for free, there weren’t quite enough to fit the demand of excited amateur astronomers.

Fall

Families enjoyed a post-Labor Day start to the school year, but many people were ambivalent about changes that pushed high school schedules forward 13 minutes and all other schools forward 15 minutes.

While many parents and students were going crazy over start times, Taylor Young was going crazy in the name of film. A writer, actor and producer for Riot Scene Pictures, Taylor and his company created the psychological thriller “Steady Hand.” In the film, Morris Kennedy, portrayed by Young, descends into madness as he works on a screenplay commissioned by rapper T. Pryor.

Madness was a feeling many Arnold residents could relate to after learning that Uchllyn Investors LLC planned to develop the land along Wroxeter Road and Old County Road without holding a community meeting. Uchllyn Investors wants to subdivide the land and build five residential homes, each on its own acre on the part of the property closest to Rugby Hall. Although much of the property is zoned R1 (one dwelling per acre), the development requires a variance to allow lots with greater density than is allowed in the Resource Conservation Area, to disturb the 15 percent steep slopes, and to build with less buffer than required by county code.

“Our main concern is the lack of transparency and community involvement with this proposed development,” said Elizabeth Rosborg, vice president of the Arnold Preservation Council. “The burden has been on us to gather all the information, to go to the Planning and Zoning office, meet with planners, make copies, scan and post on our website to inform Arnold residents.”

Also drawing the ire of homeowners were flights coming to and from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. On September 12, Governor Larry Hogan urged Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue the Federal Aviation Administration over lack of response following noise complaints, and Severna Park residents were thrilled that the governor, and Anne Arundel County government in separate measures, took action.

“It makes you angry that somebody decided for you to disrupt your life. You didn’t get input,” said Linda Curry, chair of the Greater Severna Park Council’s airport noise committee. “The constant noise, the vibrations – whether you’re sitting in your backyard, which is the example everybody gives, or having a conversation at the dinner table – it shakes.”

While individuals cannot run away from planes, they could run to support local nonprofits during the Fight For Phoebe 5k and the Stride For SPAN Turkey Trot. People also ran to their televisions so they could catch the Beans family from Arnold and the Cassilly family from Severna Park who appeared on the game show “Family Feud” in October and November, respectively.

Instead of feuding, local residents had a civil dialogue with county officials during a listening session held at Broadneck High School on October 17. Attendees were surveyed on what they would prioritize in the General Development Plan regarding development, the environment, the economy and community health. The General Development Plan will guide the county’s use of land, capitalization of assets and conservation of critical resources for the next 20 years.

While some were looking to the future, Jones Elementary looked to the past during a 60th anniversary celebration on October 21. Students learned about the school’s history directly from former teachers and students.

As winter drew to a close, several sports teams showcased their skills in the playoffs. The Severna Park boys soccer team played well on November 18 in the 4A state championship against Bethesda-Chevy Chase, but lost a tight contest, 1-0, after winning 19 consecutive games. The school’s field hockey team was primed for the state semifinals before a prank cost them their postseason spot. The Severna Park boys cross country team won a Maryland 4A title on November 11. The Falcon boys placed five runners in the first 18 on the grueling course at Hereford High School to finish with a team score of 40 and an emphatic victory over runner-up Dulaney (77).

A 2-1 defeat of Urbana gave the Broadneck girls soccer team reason to celebrate. The victory won the program its second 4A state championship in three years. The Bruins (17-2-1) seized the program’s second 4A crown in three years by imposing their style of play and turning in a gem of a performance.

“We kind of returned to our roots today,” said head coach John Camm. “A little bit more hard-nosed than we were all season. That’s what we talked about all week long, being physical, playing hard, just getting after it.”

Now that we’ve looked back at 2017, its time to see what the new year has in store.


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