Carroll, state officials discuss Route 30 bypass

County asked to donate 5.9 acres that contain private driveway, bridge

March 14, 2002|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

State highway officials asked the Carroll commissioners yesterday to donate a 5.9-acre parcel in Hampstead to protect endangered bog turtles, a necessary step for the long-planned Route 30 bypass to proceed.

The plan has one snag: The parcel includes a deteriorating driveway and a small bridge that Dana Hinds uses to get to her home on Sterling Court, and the state has offered no written assurances that she would be able to maintain the narrow gravel strip.

The State Highway Administration would like to own the parcel because it lies within a 72-acre bog turtle habitat that must be protected before the agency can proceed with construction of a Route 30 bypass around Hampstead. Once the state owns the parcel, the land would be placed in the care of an environmental group or agency, state highway officials said.

"The bottom line is, we're going to own this property, whether we buy it, condemn it or you donate it," Stephen P. Dragonuk, a team leader with the SHA, told the commissioners. "Once we own it, we will convey a perpetual easement to Dana."

Hinds said she can't risk her use of the driveway on uncertain negotiations with state highway officials. The commissioners agreed, and said they would not give the parcel to the state until Hinds is guaranteed the use of the driveway and the bridge and the right to maintain them.

"I am more concerned with Dana than I am with the bog turtles," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

The 1-pound turtles have delayed design of the bypass for nearly four years.

Hinds has been negotiating with state and county officials since 1996 to secure her right to use and maintain the driveway and bridge.

"I'll support whatever you need for the turtles," Hinds told officials. "I just want to make sure I have good access to my home. I'm not trying to rock the boat. I just want to make everyone happy."

Hinds said she would like to repair the driveway, which has several potholes "large enough to lose a Toyota in." She also asked the county to take a look at the bridge to ensure a firetruck can use it safely.

Dell and his colleagues on the board, Commissioners Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier, directed county staff to determine whether the bridge needs repairs. State highway officials agreed to outline, in writing, what restrictions would be placed on Hinds' use of the driveway.

"We will need the right to use it in order to monitor the bog turtles, so there will have to be some conditions on how the driveway can be maintained in the future," said Bill Branch, an environmental analyst with the SHA. "The roadway cannot be paved, lowered, widened or built up."

By taking over the property, the state would be relieving the county of a potential headache, Branch said.

"There are problems out there that I'm not sure you want to take on," he said. "You'll have to police the area from poachers who might want to steal the turtles ... and you'll have to maintain the environment as it is."

The county has owned the parcel since August 1982, when a Hampstead couple sold it to the Board of Commissioners for $18,900. The county bought the property to make way for the bypass, which was supposed to run through the parcel until the bog turtles were discovered in 1998.

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