Model Home Threatens 'Greenway' On Severn

December 11, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Plans to build a model environmental home on county land threaten efforts by the Severn River Land Trust to preserve a "greenway" along the river banks.

Grant DeHart, executive director of the Maryland Environment Trust, said the Severn land trust is encouraging waterfront property owners to preserve permanently their undeveloped land between the Arlington Echo Environmental Education Center, the Severn RunEnvironmental Area and Indians Landing.

So far the negotiations have gone well, DeHart said. But if the county builds the house at Arlington Echo without consulting the center's neighbors, it could send the wrong message, he said.

"This will be the Achilles heel of the entire (greenway) project if it goes wrong," DeHart said.

The county Board of Education, the Severn RiverCommission and the county Office of Planning and Zoning have nearly completed an agreement to build a model, environmentally efficient home at the education center.

Michael Raible, the school board's chief of planning and construction, said the project would demonstrate "environmentally sound" construction practices and use of environmentally sensitive materials and equipment "that may not be part of the typical contractor's vocabulary." It also would demonstrate for the typical household such practices as recycling and use of energy-efficient appliances.

"What we're really talking about here is a museum ofsorts, more than just a place for somebody to live," Raible said. "You want to build a place to display all these environmental technologies."

Rodney Banks, a county planner and liaison to the Severn River Commission, said the county could hire an architect in April, apply for building permits in May and begin construction by June. If officials can stick to that schedule, the house could be open by January 1993.

County Executive O. James Lighthizer awarded the Chesapeake Bay Foundation a $200,000 grant two years ago to plan a model home near Meredith Creek. But the non-profit foundation's plans collapsed when the property did not meet county standards for a septic system.

The Severn River Commission has urged the school board to pick up the project. Banks said he met with board officials at Arlington Echo last week to draft the outline of an agreement, which he presented to the Severn River Commission Thursday.

Banks said the Office of Planning and Zoning and the Board of Education will sign a memorandum ofunderstanding to guarantee that the money pledged by Lighthizer in 1988 is still available.

"The most urgent problem is keeping the money locked up," said Eugene Cronin, a member of the Severn River Commission.

But DeHart, also a member of the Severn River Commission, objected that the project was moving too quickly and threatens to steamroll efforts to protect the shoreline from development. At the veryleast, he said, residents should be included in any further planning.

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