4,300-home project OK'd in Allegany

Residents opposed to venture hope to stop it

September 01, 2005|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

A contentious proposal to develop a 4,300-home community in mountainous Allegany County has cleared a major hurdle, though residents opposed to the project said yesterday that they still hope to block it.

The Allegany County Board of Zoning Appeals approved plans late Tuesday night for Terrapin Run, which would be built in a wooded valley off U.S. 40 - known locally as Scenic Route 40 - near Little Orleans, just north of Green Ridge State Forest.

If built out over the next 15 to 20 years, as proposed by its Columbia-based developer, the community would become Allegany's second-largest after Cumberland - and a significant westward expansion of suburbia from the Washington-Baltimore region.

Michael Carnock, principal of PDC Inc., the development firm, said he would move ahead with seeking the required environmental permits from the state so he can begin building the first phase of the community. The project would begin with a riding stable and 180 single-family houses.

"This is going to be a huge boost for economic growth in the county," Carnock said.

Named for a creek that makes its way through the 1,000-acre wooded tract, Terrapin Run's single-family houses, townhouses and condominiums would be geared toward "active adults" and long-distance commuters. Amenities proposed include the riding stable, a shopping plaza, and an extensive network of hiking and riding trails.

The board's 2-1 vote came at the end of more than 30 hours of testimony over eight nights this month as opponents and supporters debated the merits of the project.

Residents who oppose the project said they were disappointed by the zoning board's approval of the special exemption permit to allow such a large project in a largely agricultural area.

Tom Mathews, spokesman for Citizens for Smart Growth in Allegany County, said members would meet next week to decide whether to pursue a costly circuit court appeal.

"It's going to be a hard decision for us," he said, noting that the group had run up $20,000 in legal bills for the hearing.

Mathews predicted that the project faces significant hurdles in its plans to supply water to homes and to treat the waste from them. "It certainly looks like it's not a done deal for sure," he said.

Carnock acknowledged that he could not supply all 4,300 homes with well water but said he had recently acquired an option to buy 400 acres adjacent to the 1,000-acre development tract and that he intended to use that site to draw water from a nearby creek. He contended that by drawing water from 15 Mile Creek, he could supply water to 10,000 homes.

Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said the developer has applied for a water appropriation permit. The agency is in the early stages of reviewing that and has asked for more information.

McIntire said that the project also faces scrutiny over several other environmental issues, including its waste treatment, wetlands and stream protections.

The project has drawn support from business and labor leaders, who hope it will help reverse the county's declining population (from 81,000 in 1980 to about 74,000) and provide construction jobs in an area beset with high unemployment since factories closed there in the 1980s and 1990s.

But the project has drawn criticism over its potential impact on ground-water and area streams, as well as the traffic it would generate.

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