Odenton development plan sparks wetlands debate

July 30, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Development of the Odenton Town Center parcel will destroy forested wetlands, environmentalists, county planners and property owners agree.

But how much of those wetlands must be filled and what impact their destruction will have on the Patuxent and Severn river watersheds is a matter of contention among the groups.

Earl Bradley, a Sierra Club member, complained that the plan to fill nearly 11 acres of wetlands is "without precedence in the state," and argued that approving it would give other developers license to destroy large amounts of wetlands as well.

But the project was designed to have as little impact on the environment as possible and still be a worthwhile investment, countered Jason Jacobson of Osprey Investment Co., development manager. The plan preserves 35 percent of the land, he said.

"If the public wants [more preservation] that badly, someone's going to have to buy it from us," he said. "There's not a whole lot more we can do."

The Reliable Contracting Co. Profit Sharing Trust, owners of a 30-acre parcel slated for initial development, and Anne Arundel County have applied for permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment that would allow them to fill a 10.9 acres of nontidal wetlands. The plan calls for construction of a 215,000 square-foot shopping center with parking spaces on the 30 acres owned by the trust and two major access roads for the entire 220-acre town center parcel to be built by the county.

Area environmental and civic groups hashed out their differences with county planners and property owners at an informal public briefing yesterday at County Planning and Code Enforcement headquarters in Annapolis.

The briefing came nearly eight weeks after a public hearing on the permit applications brought relatively few voices of opposition. Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Sierra Club, the Severn River Commission and the Severn River Association, a civic organization, have called the development plans too damaging to wetlands, voicing their opposition in public comments to be considered by the corps and the Department of the Environment.

"We want to see the town center developed, but we want to see it developed in the least damaging way possible," John Flood, a member of the Severn River Commission, said yesterday.

Bradley added: "The first major development in the town center seems to go against providing adequate environmental protection."

The plan would have a permanent impact on an unusually large amount of wetlands, according to Terry Clark of the Department of the Environment.

The largest commercial developments have received approval for damaging one to nearly five acres, according to Clark, who did not attend the briefing. The amount of wetlands that would be disturbed in the first phase of the town center is nearly one-fourth of the total amount of wetlands that the department allowed to be destroyed in 1995, 45.91 acres.

The Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Environment PTC are expected to reach a decision in September or October.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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