Chapman's Landing work begins despite state talks Developer says he's 'open to proposals' for land

March 27, 1998|By Heather Dewar | Heather Dewar,SUN STAFF

Even as the Maryland legislature moved to provide money to buy an environmentally sensitive swath of forest on the Potomac River, the developer who owns it was clearing ground for Chapman's Landing, a controversial waterfront community.

Bulldozers began razing trees and grading future roadways on the 2,250-acre Charles County site last week, said James T. Pastore, a spokesman for developer Edward Podboy. A little over an acre of forested land has been cleared, he said.

The work began while Podboy was negotiating a possible sale of the land to the state and a private conservation group.

Podboy's plans to build a community for 12,000 residents on the Colonial-era plantation have drawn heated opposition from Maryland environmentalists, who have fought unsuccessfully to block the project. The opponents contend the large-scale development would degrade the historic site, which they say is also a haven for bald eagles, increasingly rare songbirds and more than a dozen rare varieties of plants.

A private conservation group, with the backing of Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, wants to buy at least part of the tract, which includes a 19th-century plantation house and some of the state's oldest hardwood trees.

Tuesday, the governor included $5 million for the land purchase in his supplemental budget request to the General Assembly. The House of Delegates approved the request yesterday, and the Senate is poised to act quickly on it.

The land-clearing under way is legal, said a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. Podboy has obtained all but one of the permits he needs for the project, a Columbia-on-the-Potomac-style development that will include 4,600 homes, an 18-hole golf course and 2.25 million square feet of offices and shops.

Conservationists called the tree-cutting a slap in the face to those seeking to buy and preserve the land. "Bulldozing trees is not the way to win friends. It's a very hostile act," said Sierra Club activist Joy Oakes.

But Pastore said Podboy's Legend Development Co. "remains open to proposals to acquire the property. That hasn't changed."

The land-clearing has not halted negotiations between the governor and the developer and they are continuing, said Ray Feldmann, Glendening's press secretary.

Feldmann would not say whether a deal is near. "We are in very sensitive negotiations about this property and the governor doesn't want these negotiations to go forward in the public or the press," he said.

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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