Habitat project delayed Critical areas law affects home site

July 26, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

A last-minute county inspection delayed the start of a fourth Habitat For Humanity-built home in the Marley Park community when county officials determined last week that the site was within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas.

Construction of the one-story, four-bedroom home was set back at least a month, and left about 100 volunteers who had gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony Saturday with little to do.

"I just found out yesterday," said Donald McConnell, who is set to move into the house with his wife and four children once it's completed. "I was disappointed. We wanted to be in by Thanksgiving. We looked at a calendar. Now we might be in the week before Christmas."

Habitat officials went ahead with the ground-breaking ceremony anyway, turning over just a few shovel fulls of dirt and leaving the rest of the property alone.

The sloping land, which overlooks Marley Creek, apparently falls under the state's Critical Area Law. Before the land can be cleared, the Habitat organization must have a hearing, scheduled for Aug. 24.

County inspectors fear that run-off from grading will go into the creek and, eventually, into the Chesapeake Bay. Habitat officials said that in April, when they got the permit for the Michael and April Lane's home next door, critical areas were not a concern.

"In just three months, things have changed," said Mel Merritt, the construction chairman for Arundel Habitat for Humanity. The county has been criticized for not enforcing the state law stringently enough, and recently it closed loopholes in its law to conform to state standards.

The McConnells' home is part of a unique project for Habitat because it's part of a cluster of four in Marley Park. Craig and Jeanne Martin and their six children moved into the first of the homes earlier this year. Work on a home for the Lanes is just about finished, and they are set to move in next week.

In fact, Mr. McConnell, who works as a security guard for the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Carderock Division in Annapolis, knows his neighbor's house better then his own. He has spent hundreds of hours helping volunteers build it for the Lanes and their two children.

"I already have a good relationship with the Lanes," said Mr. McConnell, 44, who now lives in a small, old home on Jumpers Hole Road in Millersville. "We've become good friends."

Work continued Saturday on the Lane home. Workers attended to last-minute details and landscaping, while other volunteers wandered to the ceremony next door.

Annapolis Alderman Samuel Gilmer was on hand, explaining that Habitat's next project will be building several homes in the city. "We have got to create housing that is affordable," he said. "This group does it not with your taxes, but with your sweat and your muscles."

For the McConnell family, that hard work will mean a new and improved place to live. Mr. McConnell said he supports his family on about $25,000 a year.

"You might say our family has been living in a drowning condition," Mr. McConnell told the volunteers who had gathered to build his home. "This has been the life-boat that has answered our prayers."

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