Two weeks after residents of Hunt Country Estates watched earthmovers rip into a neighboring stream, they learned the county executive had decided to support a state plan sacrificing their homes to protect that stream.
"There's a little bit of irony there, isn't there? Itjust doesn't make any sense at all," said Valerie McGuire of Hunt Country Estates in southern Ellicott City.
The state has offered to buy her home because it would be in the shadow of Route 100 if it adopts an alignment that County Executive Charles I. Ecker said last week he supports. Two neighboring homes would be torn down to make room for the highway.
On Jan. 13, "I looked out my sliding glass door and I saw these graders and bulldozers going down one bank and up the other side, back and forth," she said.
The heavy equipment was carving a storm water management pond out of the wetlands of the Deep Run stream for the benefit of the Montgomery Meadows subdivision.
What seemed ironic to her and other residents of Fetlock Court was that to save 2.55 acres of the Deep Run's federally protected wetlands, the State Highway Administration planned to move Route 100 150 feet north into their neighborhood.
As veterans of highway planning battles -- the same residents won a battle in1987 to shift the road to where it is now mapped -- they were not about to let the stream's defilement go unnoticed.
McGuire and neighbor Tom O'Brien made calls to state agencies that deal with wetland and flood plain permits for an explanation.
The work was approved, according to county planners, because the Montgomery Meadows subdivision was not subject to stricter, modern wetlands protections when it was planned several years ago.
But the residents also discovered that in the time the project was waiting for the proper economic climate for development, some permits expired.
"Last week, we had a problem out at the site where they made a stream crossing and did not have a permit from us for a stream crossing," said Thomas Boone, chief of the Enforcement Division of the state Water Resources Administration.
Inspectors issued the developer, Elm Street Development of McLean, Va., a violation for the crossing, and are reviewing the case todecide what sort of penalties it should pay. State law sets a maximum fine of $500 a day for such violations, but Boone said he did not know how many days the structure was in place.
The developer has since applied for and received a permit,Boone said.
County planners were also informed that sedimentation and erosion control permits forthe pond were out of date, and state regulatory authorities issued astop-work order Jan. 23 until the permits were renewed, said Elmina Hilsenrath, chief of the county division of Community Planning and Land Development.
Residents of Hunt Country Estates were more disturbed to learn that Ecker has decided to favor the Route 100 alignment that will take out their houses, citing a state study that shows morehouses would be sacrificed to an alternative route proposed by Hunt Country residents.
"It appears that they're going to have to take less houses with a northern alignment than with a southern alignment," Ecker said last week. On Wednesday he attended a briefing by an SHAplanner outlining some preliminary results of a study on three Route100 alternatives.
The study may be released by the end of February, said State Highway Administrator Hal Kassoff, adding that the alignment will be decided only after elected officials and residents reach a consensus.
"Obviously I'm not pleased, and I'm not sure that he has all the information to base a decision like that," McGuire saidof Ecker.