Victory against sprawl

May 10, 2006

The fight against sprawl in Maryland is so uphill that any victory deserves to be heralded. Such is the case with the decision last week of an Allegany County Circuit Court judge to send approval of the Terrapin Run project back to the county for reconsideration.

Terrapin Run would put 4,300 homes for long-distance commuters on 935 acres by the Green Ridge State Forest 50 miles west of Hagerstown.

As we noted last week, the project was approved by a split vote of Allegany's Board of Zoning Appeals, despite its land being zoned for agriculture and conservation.

Circuit Judge Gary G. Leasure ruled that the board, in approving the project, used a too-liberal standard of "harmony" with the county's comprehensive plan. Projects must meet a more stringent test of consistency with the plan, the judge said. In a potential appeal, Terrapin Run opponents may press for an even more stringent standard, that of conformity with the plan, which the project is unlikely to meet.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Terrapin Run's developer, PDC Inc. of Columbia, says the firm will continue pursuing this project. But Judge Leasure's ruling should cause the county Board of Zoning Appeals to think about its larger responsibilities for managing growth - and reject Terrapin Run as the wrong growth pattern in the wrong setting.

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