Board of appeals won't stop development Town houses to be built on 'pristine setting' on Little Magothy CENTRAL COUNTY -- Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

February 25, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

Members of the county Board of Appeals were awe struck by the "pristine setting" and "beauty" of a 34-acre forest and section of shoreline along the Little Magothy River.

But, in a 6-1 decision released this week, they also said they are powerless to stop the construction of 153 town houses there. Opponents of the project near Cape St. Claire said yesterday they will appeal to the Circuit Court.

While the development, known as Woods Landing Section II, violates the spirit of state and county law protecting a 1,000-foot strip along the waterfront, it is within the letter of the law, the

board found.

"The board . . . cannot fail to notice the environmental consequences which may result from development that is inconsistent with the spirit and intent of the Critical Areas program," the majority said. "Unfortunately, the board concludes that its hands are tied by the exemption provisions" in the county code.

The County Council exempted Woods Landing and about two dozen other subdivisions on the Broadneck Peninsula when it adopted its Critical Area enforcement program in 1988 because they were on a waiting list for public sewer service.

The state Critical Area Commission approved the county program, exemptions and all, that year and has praised it as one of the best in the state.

But last spring, the commission asked the county to eliminate the exemptions and other provisions that diluted the program's most basic shoreline and wildlife habitat protections.

The county still is drafting revisions that the commission had asked to be completed last fall.

Louise Hayman, spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall, said draft revisions should be completed next week. County officials will explain the changes to county environmental activists and development groups before sending them to the County Council, she said.

Betsy Kulle, a spokeswoman for the residents in Woods Landing Section I, who challenged the subdivision, said their community association hopes to test the constitutionality of the exemptions, believing the state law should have pre-empted the county's.

"We've always felt our best case was in the Circuit Court," she said. "We'll push the constitutional issue until we drop over."

Other community associations and individuals have rallied to their cause, offering financial and moral support, Mrs. Kulle said. Among the contributors are the Lower Broadneck Federation, which has donated $1,000; the Magothy River Association, $500; and the Severn River Association, $250.

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