COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) — A rift is growing over a proposed 16-foot cross in a town that was designed to build interfaith community centers in place of individual churches.

Some Columbia residents object to plans by the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center to erect the cross on the exterior of a new building.

With 100,000 residents, Columbia was built four decades ago by visionary developer James Rouse as village centers surrounded by shops and community buildings. The Rouse Co. made land available at a fraction of its market value to groups of two denominations or more that agreed to work together.

The Wilde Lake center is home to St. John United Church and St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. The new building, for the St. John United congregation, will provide much-needed space. The Rev. R. Whitfield Bass, pastor of St. John United, which combines Methodist and Presbyterian traditions, called the cross a "symbol of freedom."

The congregation originally planned to erect a 27-foot cross with backlighting. But that plan was dropped and the size was reduced after some residents objected.

"It represents a whole philosophical change," said Barbara Kellner, director of Columbia Archives.