Bay panel tightens golf course standards

State commission's aim is to protect shoreline

August 04, 2005|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

The state panel charged with protecting the Chesapeake Bay from harmful shoreline development adopted guidelines yesterday for building environmentally sensitive golf courses along the waterfront - but in a move that pleased environmentalists, tightened the rules to close potential loopholes.

The design standards unanimously adopted by the Critical Area Commission call for keeping fairways, tees and greens at least 300 feet back from tidal waters and wetlands, and for maintaining 150-foot buffers on either side of any streams flowing through the course.

To help protect nearby waters from pollution, the standards also require collecting storm water from tees and greens and treating it to remove fertilizers and pesticides.

The 29-member panel, which regulates development within a 1,000-foot strip of bay shoreline known as the "critical area," has approved four waterfront golf courses in the past 15 years. But the commission opted to spell out a policy this year after learning of another course proposed along the Little Blackwater River as part of a disputed resort development in Cambridge.

"This whole process was to provide specificity," said Martin G. Madden, the panel's chairman, "so that future projects that come before the commission will have an objective set of standards we can look at."

The commission amended the standards to spell out that the shoreline buffers and other measures would be mandatory, rather than goals to shoot for, after receiving more than 600 comments from the public - the bulk of them worried that bay water quality and wildlife would suffer if the proposed guidelines were too flexible.

Margaret McHale, Maryland staff attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the Annapolis-based environmental group was pleased with the tightened standards, which she called a "higher road" for waterfront golf course design.

Local officials would still be free to approve links with fewer environmental protections, but would have to use up some of the limited shoreline "growth allocation" that each bayfront county has under the state's critical-area law. Commission officials said the guidelines offer local officials an incentive to demand "greener" golf courses.

William "Sandy" McAllister, lawyer for the developer of Blackwater Resort communities, said he was unsure how the standards would affect his client's project, which had proposed a 100-foot wooded buffer between the river and the golf course.

"We're going to evaluate to what degree the standards can be integrated into a project that's two years old," he said.

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