Records Refute Charges in Article on WetlandsTom Horton...

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January 08, 1994

Records Refute Charges in Article on Wetlands

Tom Horton (Dec. 26) may write eloquent prose about "the good old days" on the bay, but venturing into the reality of criminal trials, wetlands and real estate records requires an aptitude and respect for details and facts . . .

When Mr. Horton called me for an interview, he claimed he was writing an article on Bill Ellen for the National Audubon Society's magazine and did not ask me about numerous unsubstantiated comments you published about The Fairness to Land Owners Committee (FLOC) and me personally. Mr. Horton could have gotten his account straight -- if only he had asked.

"By May of [1990]," I had not "turned [my] residence into the nerve center of a land-rights lobby . . ." as Mr. Horton claims. The FLOC was formed in July, 1990, (not May) by hundreds of Dorchester Countians who were being denied the prudent use of their land by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and for more than a year our office was in downtown Cambridge -- not my home.

The initial FLOC membership included many elderly and retired individuals whose land, and life savings, was being held hostage

during a 19-month period when the corps refused to issue a single permit for residential use of any property on the entire Eastern Shore.

If Mr. Horton would have asked (or looked at the land records in the Court House) he would have known that I did not have a financial interest, as he opines, in a parcel owned by Charles Jowaiszas.

Further, based on hearsay from the corps, Mr. Horton claims Mr. Jowaiszas' request for a corps permit was mere real estate speculation.

If Mr. Horton would have looked in the corps files (a matter of public record) he would have found that the corps and Mr. Jowaiszas had a great deal of correspondence back and forth, and contrary to Mr. Horton's claims none of them were "bearing the FLOC letterhead."

He would have also found that when Mr. Jowaiszas was asked by the corps why he needed to use his lot, he explained that his current residence was under a contract of sale and that he needed to use the 14-acre lot to build a home. The contract of sale and the escrow funds are fully documented. Subsequently, when the sale of his home fell through, Mr. Jowaiszas sold the lot.

Writing that "[t]he couple . . . won county permission to develop another, 138-acre property" which "angered several neighbors who had put their properties in open space preservation," Mr. Horton is factually incorrect. Had he asked (or checked public documents in the Court House), Mr. Horton would have known that I alone own the property -- a crop and tree farm which was approved in 1989 for 14 large residential lots with all restrictions and requirements of the Maryland Critical Areas law.

In addition, there were no neighbors with property in open space preservation at that time. And although he quotes Hugh Horning ("whose land adjoins the Reigle-Jowaiszas tract," which it does not) as saying it was approved "on a technicality," there was no technicality involved, it was the law.

Subsequently, in 1991 -- well after my approved subdivision -- Mr. Horning provided himself a tax break by placing his 17-acre developed parcel in a conservation easement, since he could not further develop it under the 20-acre critical area restrictions.

Further, as the chairman of FLOC, I never submitted any request for a permit to fill any of my farm.

However, after Congress ordered the corps to use the 1987 manual and not the 1989 Wetlands Delineation Manual (which increased their jurisdiction from 22 percent to 68 percent of our county), I hired the former chief of regulatory of corps headquarters (who helped write both manuals) to delineate the wetlands/upland on my property.

After submission of all of the required documentation to the corps, they claimed -- contrary to their regulations -- that they do not look at delineations without a request for a fill permit.

Ultimately, my consultant prevailed and required them to adhere to their regulations and review the delineation.

After spending thousands of dollars in consulting fees, having the corps take the arbitrary and retaliatory position that the delineation had to be completely redone, with no documentation on their part, and after receiving several intimidating phone calls from the enforcement officer and one from the Baltimore district chief of regulatory the morning I was to testify in Congress, my consultant and I decided that it was time to take the arbitration up the chain of command.

Instead of claiming that "Ms. Reigle used her contacts to get a meeting at the Pentagon with top corps official," if Mr. Horton would have asked he would have learned that I did what any citizen has a right to do -- place a request with their congressman.

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