Capital Notebook

Capital Notebook

February 10, 2006

Bay group takes stance against Shore project

Leaders of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation told a House committee yesterday that a plan to build more than 3,000 homes near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge would endanger a precious resource and set a bad precedent for growth around the state.

The foundation, which rarely gets involved in local growth issues, has been sounding the alarm on the Blackwater project for the past few weeks after hearing from many Cambridge-area residents who oppose the project.

Yesterday, senior planner George Maurer told the House Environmental Matters Committee that the plan to build the homes, a hotel, a golf course and a conference center within 2 miles of the wildlife refuge is fraught with problems.

Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, the committee chairwoman, said she asked foundation leaders to appear before the panel because she is considering introducing legislation that could restrict the project. An emergency bill that would quash the development has been introduced in the Senate.

McIntosh's committee has yet to hear from the developer, Dwayne E.E. Zentgraf. His lawyer, William "Sandy" McAllister, contends that the Blackwater project follows Smart Growth principles because the homes would be near schools and because the developer is working closely with the city and county.

A final vote by the Cambridge City Council on the $1 billion project is expected after another public hearing Feb. 27. The proposal then will be reviewed by the state Critical Area Commission, which has jurisdiction over areas within 1,000 feet of bay tributaries.

Rona Kobell

Maryland mayors rail against curtailing the power to annex

Mayors from across the state gathered in Annapolis yesterday to oppose a Senate bill that would curtail their ability to annex and incorporate land. They argued that the proposed legislation would hinder their ability to grow and prosper.

At a meeting of the Maryland Municipal League, dozens of officials complained about the legislation introduced last week by Sens. E.J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican; Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat; and John C. Astle, an Anne Arundel Democrat.

The local officials said the bill, which would delay an urban boundary expansion for up to a decade unless the county agreed to it, gives them little control over their destiny and encourages sprawl.

The mayors plan to introduce a bill proposing that cities and counties establish joint planning agreements and that growth boundaries apply to incorporated and unincorporated areas.

County officials, particularly on the Eastern Shore, have been concerned about small towns' ability to annex county land, then approve developments that use county services such as roads and schools. They want to curtail the towns' annexation powers and have some say in development that taxes infrastructure.

Rona Kobell

List of polluted waterways might add beaches, fishing spots

One hundred and forty-five polluted Maryland waterways would be added to a state list under a draft report the Department of the Environment is circulating for public review.

The proposed additions to the biennial Impaired Surface Waters list include 11 public beaches and 13 crabbing or fishing spots.

The additions would bring the number of Maryland waterways listed as impaired to 733, up from 659 in 2004. The 96-page document, available at mde.state.md.us, will be the subject of public meetings Thursday in Baltimore, Feb. 22 in Hagerstown and Feb. 23 in Salisbury.

The MDE said the additional listings don't necessarily indicate a decline in the state's overall water quality, "but rather reflect increased monitoring, newer water quality or resource data, and new improvements in assessment techniques."

The document, a requirement of the federal Clean Water Act, identifies waters that meet or don't meet state water-quality standards.

Elevated bacterial concentrations at swimming, fishing and crabbing spots led to their inclusion on the list, the MDE said. Those waterways include public areas such as the St. Clement's Shores Community Beach in St. Mary's County and private areas including the Chester River Yacht and Country Club Beach in Kent County.

The majority of the new listings, 112, are for biological impairments to small and medium-size nontidal streams. Cleaning up those waters is a priority for the state, the MDE said.

Associated Press

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