State Department of Environment officials have asked the Maryland Historical Trust to help determine whether the digging for a golf course and country club at Hayfields Farm should be stopped while a historic-impact study is conducted.
Dane S. Bauer, deputy director of the department's Water Management Agency, said the issue is complicated by the question of whether historic impact must be considered in issuing a storm-water control permit, such as the one that has allowed the digging.
Bauer said he will ask the state attorney general's office to make that determination.
The Nicholas Mangione family wants to build the golf club on 276 of the old farm's 474 acres. Diggers were at work last week in the Hunt Valley area even though opponents have challenged the project in Baltimore County Circuit Court.
Hayfields, once one of the county's premier farms, was used by Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War in the 1860s. Preservationists argue that there is a high probability of significant artifacts being buried there that would be lost in the digging.
On Thursday, believing they had found a legal loophole to stop the work, the Valleys Planning Council and Preservation Maryland, longtime opponents of the project, filed an urgent stop-work request with state Environment Secretary Jane T. Nishida.
The preservationists said the law requires DOE to notify the Maryland Historical Trust of the permit application to allow for a historical assessment before work begins and that this was not done.
Two other DOE permits for the golf course project -- for ground water and for a dam -- do not involve historic issues, Bauer said. The ground water permit is on administrative appeal, and the dam design is still under study, he said.
Before the preservationists raised the issue of the digging, which involves 208 acres, Bauer said the only area subject to historic inquiry was two acres of wetlands that would be affected.
The developer cannot work in the wetlands or proposed dam areas until those issues are resolved, he said.
Of the work that began last week, however, John Mangione, who is managing the project for his family business, said the family had the proper permits and was gambling to save time on the presumption that the entire project will be approved eventually.
Last week, John Bernstein, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council, would not say whether the opponents would seek a court injunction if the digging were not stopped.
"Unless they have some plausible reason that [a stop-work order] is not necessary then we would take it very seriously," Bernstein said.