Delegate's project permits get Balto. County, federal scrutiny

Officials review grading, dumping at Impallaria's Middle River property

December 12, 2004|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Federal and Baltimore County officials are reviewing whether a state lawmaker followed proper procedures in a construction project at his waterfront property.

Del. Richard K. Impallaria has been accused of doing grading work without the necessary permit at a 2-acre tract along Middle River, after trees were removed and dredging spoils were dumped in a protected shoreline buffer area, according to Baltimore County records and environmental officials.

Impallaria was issued an order last month to stop all work at his property at 1923 Old Eastern Ave., in the heart of the county's east-side revitalization zone, by an inspector from the county Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Sunday's editions incorrectly stated that the Maryland Department of the Environment last year found that Del. Richard K. Impallaria had dumped concrete and other debris on the banks of a stream adjacent to his property on Middle River. The department did not say who had dumped the debris on the property.
The Sun regrets the error.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last week that the agency is conducting a separate examination to determine whether Impallaria abided by the terms of a permit that required dredge spoils to be dumped at Hart-Miller Island.

Impallaria, 42, a Republican who represents Baltimore County's east side and part of Harford County, was elected to the House of Delegates two years ago and is a member of the Economic Matters Committee.

`Significant violation'

The county inspector who issued the Nov. 5 stop-work order was responding to several complaints about grading at the property, and found other "problems" that included missing trees and spoils dumped at the site, said David A.C. Carroll, director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Resource Management.

Before the stop-work order was issued, Carroll said, Impallaria had dredged the river in front of his property and deposited the spoils in the protected 100-foot buffer area and elsewhere on his property.

"He came to us after the fact trying to obtain the proper permits, but the work was already completed," Carroll said.

Carroll said officials will review Impallaria's case within the next couple of weeks.

"This was a significant violation," he said.

Violators of stop-work orders face fines of up to $1,000 a day but typically are required to make restitution in the form of tree plantings and shore restoration, officials said.

Impallaria has not been fined, Carroll said.

No state problems

Last year, the Maryland Department of the Environment found that Impallaria had dumped concrete and other debris on the banks of a stream adjacent to his property; the stream empties into Middle River.

Impallaria removed that debris, state officials said at the time.

Last week, MDE issued Impallaria a permit to build a pier at the site.

Robert M. Summers, the agency's director of water management administration, advised Impallaria in a letter Wednesday that penalties will not be pursued against him for a "minor sediment control violation" because he carried out his dredging project "in conformance with the Corps of Engineers permit."

Summers encouraged Impallaria "to make sure that all required permits and approvals are obtained and followed" in the future.

Impallaria was issued a federal permit in 1999 to dredge an area of Middle River for a pier and boat slip, said Bob Nelson, a spokesman for the Baltimore office of the Army Corps of Engineers.

"He was supposed to disperse the dredging spoils at Hart-Miller Island," Nelson said. "Our regulatory enforcement officers are looking at that property to see if the permit was followed."

Repeated attempts to obtain comment from Impallaria were unsuccessful.

Numerous telephone calls were placed to the delegate and to his legislative aide, who said that Impallaria had received the previous messages.

Seeking a variance

Carroll, the Baltimore County environmental official, said that after Tropical Storm Isabel, permits were issued under a consolidated process involving county, state and federal environmental agencies to help speed up repairs to piers, bulkheads and other waterfront property.

Impallaria obtained a permit to rebuild a bulkhead under that process, Carroll said.

Under the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law, any grading, removal of trees and vegetation or other work within 100 feet of tidal waters must face a thorough government review.

On Nov. 29, Impallaria filed an application for a variance from Critical Area regulations with the county environmental agency, pointing to problems with a contractor and because of storm damage.

Isabel woes

In the application, he wrote that a contractor was supposed to have taken dredge spoils to Hart-Miller Island but did not, and a pile driving company was to have taken spoils to a parking lot outside the 100-foot buffer but did not.

Impallaria wrote that the effects of Isabel created the need to do work beyond what had originally been planned, and he asks for a variance to store the spoils within the buffer, behind the bulkhead.

He also wrote that Isabel uprooted trees on his property, adding that "it would be impossible to restore the 18 trees that were lost" with similar trees 60 feet in height.

Impallaria purchased the property and a concrete-block building on the site for $165,000.

It has been used for auto body repair and a motorcycle shop.

The property is close to three marinas, a site that county planners once had envisioned as a tourist destination. That plan was dropped.

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