A partnership controlled by developer Nicholas Mangione was fined $75,000 Friday, the largest fine ever levied for violating a state environmental law protecting flood plains.
Circuit Court Judge James B. Dudley granted probation before judgment in the case and suspended all but $7,500 of the fine. He also imposed five years of unsupervised probation on the limited partnership, Mangione Enterprises of Turf Valley.
"We hope that this will send a message to other people that the courts are taking these things pretty seriously," said assistant attorney general Sharon B. Benzil, who handled the case.
The law prevents the alteration of identified flood plains without obtaining the proper permits.
The partnership was charged in May 1990 with three counts of violating Maryland natural resources law. Inspectors from the Department of Natural Resources found that in the course of constructing a new golf course, the partnership had altered three sites within a 100-year flood plain of the Little Patuxent River without obtaining the proper permits.
"No permit had ever been obtained, even though it was brought to the attention of the defendant they were doingthis in violation of state statute," Dudley said.
Mangione maintains that the sewer contractor for the golf course did obtain the required state permits.
"They completely overlooked the fact that the sewer contractor had a permit from the DNR to put the pipe in and work in wetlands." Mangione said.
"It's a crime when a judge finds a man guilty who has been in business for 43 years and has never been involved in any kind of criminal act," he said.
Benzil said that the violation in the case did not involve the presence of a pipe, but the placing of fill topsoil in a flood plain. The sewer contractor hada permit for a temporary crossing and did no work in the flood plain, she said.
Mangione's partnership was cited by the DNR for a similar violation in 1988.
"The DNR tried to warn them of the need to get permits for actions like this," Benzil said.
"With five years'probation and that fine hanging there, we hope they won't neglect todo this in the future."
Flood plains are areas of land surroundedby a stream or water way, which absorb water from particularly hard rains to alleviate damage from flooding.
The DNR found that Mangione Enterprises altered the flood plains during the golf course construction by adding fill material in three areas of the flood plain.
Mangione ran afoul of county environmental regulations in 1988 when he began clearing trees for his new course without having a county-approved sediment control plan, Benzil said. The county filed a motion against Mangione for contempt of court for violating an injunction ordering him to stop construction on his new nine-hole golf course.
In a settlement agreement, the county withdrew its motion for contemptand dismissed the civil violations in return for Mangione making a $5,000 payment to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.