State grants wetlands license Pointe Properties planning 158 homes on Baldwin's Choice

Residents 'disappointed'

Opponents will turn back to Gary, Arundel Council

November 28, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The state dealt a group of South County residents a devastating blow yesterday when it approved a tidal wetlands license for a developer that wants to build homes on an environmentally sensitive site called Baldwin's Choice.

In granting the permit, the three-member Board of Public Works paved the way for Pointe Properties Inc. to begin building 158 single-family homes in a 477-acre subdivision formerly known as Franklin Point on the Shady Side peninsula.

The project will destroy about two of the 345 acres of wetlands near the site, but the permit deals with 0.16 acres of tidal wetlands. Developers have promised to create new wetlands to replace the ones destroyed.

South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development (SACReD), which opposes the project, said it was "disappointed and surprised" by the unanimous vote and vowed to continue its two-year fight.

"We'll have to go to the judicial route," said Mike Bevenour, president of SACReD, which represents residents of Shady Side and civic and professional groups opposing the proposed development. Bevenour also said his group would take its protest back to the Anne Arundel County Council and County Executive John G. Gary, which is what the board suggested.

The board members -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening, state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein -- said they wanted to make it clear that they were voting only on a wetlands permit and were not dealing with the local issue of land use.

Based on the county's decision to approve zoning for the development and the fact that the developer has completed 98 percent of the permit process needed to begin building, the board told SACReD members that "this is not an easy decision to make."

"We have no real option other than to approve," Glendening said during the board's meeting yesterday. "I am sympathetic and understand your frustration, but we're faced with elected local officials who support the zoning of this project.

"We'd be in a real pickle if we started trying to review every local zoning issue. This really isn't about .16 acres, it's about the whole zoning and use of the land."

SACReD had argued against allowing Pointe to build on the land using the plans and state standards that applied to an earlier development attempt.

According to SACReD, Franklin Point Limited Partnership acquired the property in 1986 but fell on hard times and the project languished. Meanwhile, state regulations to preserve nontidal marshes took effect Jan. 1, 1991.

Franklin Point revived and revised plans in December 1990. Pointe Properties bought out Franklin Point when it was dissolved in 1993 and filed its state application for a permit in 1994.

"They are two separate corporations," Bevenour told the board. "The grandfathering should not apply to Pointe, so they should be held to the more stringent environmental law which would prevent them from going ahead with a project like this."

Bevenour said his group was waiting for a reply from the Maryland Department of Environment on the grandfathering issue, but Goldstein surprised residents by reading a memorandum from the department saying there was nothing convincing enough to warrant reversing the decision.

"If you don't approve of our decision today, you can certainly go into the courts and back to the county to argue your case," Goldstein said.

Residents say they fear that the development would increase traffic on crowded Shady Side Road, the peninsula's only link to the rest of the county. Residents also are concerned about the effect of adding more students to crowded schools and building a development in an environmentally sensitive area.

The developer tried to assure the board that it would build a responsible and high-quality development.

"It's been a 10-year process that has brought us here today," said Douglas A. Nyce of Owings Mills, who represents Pointe. "We are firm and resolute in the quality and commitment we bring to this project. After 10 years and untold public meetings, emotions do run deep in this issue."

Pub Date: 11/28/96

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