The county has halted construction on a West River development, which had been exempted from most environmental rules, until it complies with erosion control laws.
The county Department of Inspections and Permits issued a stop-work order Tuesday afternoon after an inspector confirmed neighbors' complaints about mud flowing into the street near Shady Side.
John Peacock, chief of the county's environmental inspection program, said either the Florida-based developer, BMCN Joint Ventures Inc., or a subcontractor began grading and installing roads without the necessary erosion controls.
Mr. Peacock said the work "was way far ahead of the sediment controls that should have been in place."
He added that it was "a blatant violation" of the sediment control plan on file with the county.
"It's news to me," said Bruce Krain, a lawyer for BMCN, responding to a reporter's questions.
"I haven't heard anything about it. I can't respond to you," he said.
Neighbors have fought the developer's plans to build 96 homes on the 22-acre site since the county issued a permit to grade the roads and lay sewer lines last year.
Residents say the property lies within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area, a waterfront zone protected from intense development.
The county and developer say the project was subdivided before the critical area law was adopted and is therefore exempt from its restrictions. The West River Federation, which represents neighborhoods throughout the watershed, has asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to deny the permit.
Construction was allowed to begin "at the developer's risk" in June, Mr. Peacock said.
Mr. Peacock said he is surprised the violation occurred, given the project's controversial nature.
"The permitee knows better, he knows it was appealed and it was being watched closely by its neighbors," Mr. Peacock said.
Knowing all that and then deliberately ignoring the sediment controls "would be like shooting your own foot off," he said.
L Mr. Peacock said he wants an explanation from the developer.
But, as of yesterday afternoon, neither he nor his inspector had been able to locate anyone connected with the project.
He said the work site was vacant when the stop-work order was posted.
The developer will be required to clean up the mud in the street and on the site before being allowed to continue work, Mr. Peacock said.
Civil penalties also could be assessed, he said.