The developer of 71 homes at Back Bay Beach on the West River can begin grading and clearing the first 13 building lots, the county Board of Appeals has ruled.
The panel upheld, 5-1, the legality of a grading permit issued by the county Department of Inspections and Permits.
Two West River residents who live next to the 22-acre development complained that the project, designed and subdivided in 1929, does not meet current county standards for lot size, road width, storm-water management or wetlands protection.
An attorney representing the residents, Robert Kovich and Robert Houchins, said he was not surprised by the board's decision Tuesday.
The board ruled last year in favor of another West River resident who filed a similar challenge of BMCN Joint Venture's permit to grade roads for the project. But a Circuit Court judge reversed the board's decision last summer.
William Collison, president of the West River Federation, has asked the Court of Special Appeals to review that decision.
The Circuit Court's reversal of the earlier ruling may have affected the board's recent decision, Thomas Wohlgemuth, the residents' attorney, said yesterday.
The board is expected to release a written explanation of its decision next month.
Mr. Wohlgemuth said he does not know if his clients will challenge the ruling in court.
Opponents of the Back Bay Beach development said negotiations could continue with BMCN to cut by two-thirds the number of homes planned for the subdivision, identify nontidal wetlands and enlarge the ponds used to control storm water flowing into Carrs Creek.
The talks broke down this month, and county planners have been working to get both sides back to the table.
"We've been trying to act as an intermediary," said Assistant County Attorney Jamie Insley.
The negotiations appeared to reach an impasse when residents, county planners and officials with BMCN Joint Ventures last met on Dec. 8., said Peg Burroughs, one of the opponents.
Mrs. Burroughs said appeals are the only way residents can stall the development while they negotiate.
At issue is whether the developer must comply with current standards.
County planners have said that because the plans are so old, they only have to comply with the modern standards "in so far as possible."