Pollution risks said to be overestimated

July 15, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A town house development proposed near Cape St. Claire will not pollute the Little Magothy River as a group of Lower Broadneck residents contend, a county environmental expert said.

Meosotis Curtis, coordinator of water quality programs for the county Office of Planning and Zoning, told the Board of Appeals Monday night that the residents' environmental consultant erred in calculating the effects of toxic chemicals swept into the river by storm water.

Residents in the Woods Landing Section 1 subdivision have challenged the county's design approval for Woods Landing Section 2. They contend it violates the state Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law and other environmental standards.

Woods Landing Joint Venture has proposed building 153 town homes on 31 acres.

In the third day of testimony since the appeal hearing began in April, Ms. Curtis said the residents' consultant, Richard Klein, of Community and Environmental Defense Services, drastically overstated the amount of copper that would find its way into the river.

Periodically, storm water would wash away toxic levels of copper from the roads and rooftops, Ms. Curtis said. But because of the size of the waterway, the effects would be negligible.

Penny Chalkley, a county planner who reviewed the Woods Landing project, said Section 2 is completely exempt from the Critical Area standards because it was placed on a waiting list for sewer service in the early 1980s.

The state Critical Area law requires more environmentally sensitive development within 1,000 feet of the bay and its tributaries.

As a matter of policy, Ms. Chalkley said, the county did require the developer to meet environmental requirements "insofar as possible." As a result, the developer moved the proposed town homes 50 feet from the water's edge, created a 25-foot buffer around most of the non-tidal wetlands, promised to cut down fewer trees, and added some storm water controls, she said.

Ms. Chalkley acknowledged that those concessions fall well short of the Critical Area standards, which bar most construction within 100 feet of the water, and may not meet the requirements even "insofar as possible."

"There is always another interpretation of what 'insofar as possible' means," she conceded. The state Critical Area Commission has asked the county to revise and strengthen portions of its 4-year-old enforcement program. A county-appointed panel of citizens has begun to review those proposed changes.

The Appeals Board will continue hearing testimony at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18 in the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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