Developer's crew caught in showdown Hampstead officials threaten Hill's workers with arrest

'An issue of trespass'

Homeowners oppose storm water pond, say they own the property

August 28, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Hampstead officials refused to allow developer Martin K. P. Hill to continue work on his Roberts Field condominium project yesterday, threatening to arrest his construction crew for trespassing.

The early morning confrontation -- which involved three Hampstead police officers, the town manager and representatives from the Roberts Field Homeowners Association -- is the latest incident in a continuing battle between Hill and town officials over construction of the 90-unit project.

The homeowners group says that Hill has no authority to build a storm water management pond on association-owned land.

The dispute intensified yesterday when Hampstead Town Manager Neil Ridgely called police to a work site at Boxwood Drive about 7: 30 a.m., after Hill's construction workers arrived to begin work on a bio-retention basin. The three construction workers were supervised by Glen Monroe, an employee of Hill's homebuilding company, Masonry Contractors.

"We told Mr. Monroe very politely that this was definitely an issue of trespass and if they proceeded, people would be arrested, and he said his directions were to go ahead anyway," Ridgely said. "But he did make a series of mobile phone calls and they decided to vacate the site."

Neither Hill nor his attorney, Clark R. Shaffer, returned repeated phone calls yesterday.

The proposed condominium project in the Roberts Field subdivision has drawn strong criticism from Hampstead officials, who say the development would violate the town's open space and density requirements.

Last December, over the objections of Hampstead officials, the County Commissioners issued a grading permit for the development.

Ridgely said the town has asked the Maryland attorney general's office for an opinion on whether the permit was properly granted.

Ridgely said yesterday that the Roberts Field Homeowners Association, which had posted no-trespassing signs at the building site, asked the town on Monday night to intervene to prevent construction.

"The town did not wish to see the rights of the homeowners association violated, and we would expect that the developer furnish us with proof that he is authorized to construct the project," Ridgely said.

Mary Jo Pollock, president of the association, said members oppose the storm water facility because of environmental concerns, including potential stream bank erosion and flooding.

Michele Ostrander, the attorney representing Hampstead, said Hill apparently believes that development plans for the Roberts Field condominiums include a drainage and utility easement allowing construction of a storm water management facility.

"In this situation, the easement has never been properly created and it doesn't allow the developer to come back at any time to do construction," Ostrander said. "It's to make sure there's a means for the free flow of water through the area."

Construction of a storm water pond is tied to a state permit that Hill received at least two years ago from the state Department of the Environment's Non-Tidal Wetlands and Waterways Division.

The permit gave Hill approval to build a road crossing over a stream as part of the condominium development, but also required that he build a retention area to collect polluted storm water, said Andrew F. Der, the division's acting chief.

Der said the division did not know of the land ownership and easement issues when the permit was issued.

"Our review is ecological," he said.

In July, after learning of the property dispute between Hill and the homeowners association, Der added a condition to the road crossing permit that requires the developer to obtain the association's written consent to build the storm water facility.

If the association fails to approve the facility, Der said that Hill may redesign his storm water runoff plan.

"I sympathize with both sides," Der said. "We recognize the community's concerns and the applicant's right to build the crossing."

xTC Pub Date: 8/28/96

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