River neighbors protest development

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

More than 120 advocates for the county's four largest rivers crowded the shoulder of a rural West River road yesterday protesting the county's disregard for state environmental rules.

Residents from the Severn, West, Magothy and South rivers areas straddled Chalk Point Road outside the Back Bay Beach subdivision, which county planners have ruled exempt from the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law. That law restricts waterfront development.

As the throng chanted, "Back off Back Bay Beach," and waved picket signs criticizing the development's exemption, the rally's organizers announced the formation of a coalition to pressure the county to more strictly enforce environmental rules on waterfront development.

Back Bay Beach is only one example of the "total disregard and, indeed, contempt the county has for the Critical Area law and the Chesapeake Bay," said Mike Cassidy, who lives a block away from the new construction and led the rally.

The approval of Woods Landing II, a 153 town house development on the Magothy River, and several marinas on the South River were also cited as examples of poor county enforcement.

Mr. Cassidy and other protesters said they want County Executive Robert R. Neall to direct the Office of Planning and Zoning to enforce the law more strictly or revise the law. The new Anne Arundel Rivers Coalition will include the Severn River Association, the Magothy River Association, the Federation of South River Associations and the West River Associations.

Mr. Neall appointed a citizens task force to review the law after the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission recommended changes last spring. That task force is expected to consider those revisions tomorrow.

However, Mr. Cassidy complained that Mr. Neall has remained silent on Back Bay Beach and Woods Landing II.

"That silence is a decision against the environment and the Chesapeake Bay," Mr. Cassidy said.

The residents also took aim at the developer of Back Bay Beach, BMCN Joint Venture, which hopes to build 96 homes on 22 acres.

"The developers have shown a total disregard for the intent of the law by cynically pursuing any technicality to subvert the law," said Caspar W. Hiatt, a Harwood resident.

Residents say Back Bay Beach includes large non-tidal wetlands, which must be preserved under the critical area law. The county and developer say that no wetlands exist, and that if they did, the development would be exempt because it was subdivided before the law was adopted.

A West River resident and the West River Federation have asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to intervene and strip BMCN of its grading permit.

Jim Martin, president of the Severn River Association, said the new Anne Arundel Rivers Coalition will lobby elected officials as well as raise money to apply legal pressure on the county.

County Councilwoman Virginia Clagett, a West River Democrat, and state Sen. Gerald Winegrad, an Annapolis Democrat, joined the protest yesterday.

"You hear a lot about legislative intent, but I know what my intent was, and it sure as heck wasn't that," Ms. Clagett said, pointing to a muddy, rutted field on the Back Bay Beach site.

Ms. Clagett said that if the task force does not recommend the changes, she will introduce her own revisions.

County inspectors did order construction stopped at Back Bay Beach last week after the developer failed to control erosion. Yesterday, workers were seen laying straw and grass seed over the development's roads.

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