A county-approved plan to put a house and a driveway in a Sullivan Cove swamp has neighbors, the Severn River Association and the Severn School in an uproar.
The plan, approved by the Office of Planning and Zoning in January, has been labeled "a monster of a bad precedent" and has raised questions about the value of the county's critical areas legislation.
The Army Corps of Engineers still must rule on Joseph Rushton's plan to fill 3,160 square feet of the marsh for a driveway and a houseon stilts. The property is adjacent to a federally funded bird study.
Spokesman Tom Kiddoo said the corps would "approve, deny or modify" the application, based on comments received during the past month, after further review.
The Severn River Association "strongly objects" to even a modified version of the proposal, saying the plan "would be in direct contravention to critical areas legislation and the protection of wetlands."
"On a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 9.85, with10 being the most serious objection," explained SRA President StuartMorris.
Jim Hoage, a history teacher and adviser to the Severn School environmental club, said Planning and Zoning's approval of the project indicates that the county's critical areas legislation "is really a dead letter."
He called its deferral to the corps of engineers "a monster of a bad precedent."
The county's critical areas zoning law prevents development, "except for necessary accessory structures, . . . in a 100-year non-tidal flood plain."
The Planning and Zoning decision handed down Jan. 23 admits that the construction would be within the 100-year flood plain, but it let the project through,leaving the wetlands debate to the corps of engineers.
Hoage saidthe Severn School's 30-member environmental club is preparing a petition "to raise some alarms about critical areas.
"What the devil good is critical areas legislation if they don't usethem," Hoage said.
Severn School is a few hundred feet from the plot and uses Sullivan Cove as a nature laboratory, testing for water quality and counting species.
Ornithologist Eugene Morton of the Smithsonian, who lives next door to the property, also uses the area as a natural laboratory with his federally sponsored study of the sociobiology of purple martins, which he keeps in bird apartments on his land.
Morton says the project would interfere with the "foraging pathways" of his birds.
Morton has identified nine species of wildlife "in or around the building site," including "the endangered American black duck," muskrats, leopard frogs, wrens, sparrows, rails and killifish.
Morton's findings are listed in one of four letters of objection to the project received by the corps of engineers, Kiddoo said.
The deadline for public comment ended Monday. The corps will send the objectionsto the applicant for responses and make a decision after its own investigation.