Fight headed for council

Turf Valley foes get Sept. 18 hearing on water, sewer extension

September 13, 2006|by a sun reporter

Opponents of the development of Turf Valley, the luxury planned community and resort, will step up their efforts by taking the fight directly to the County Council.

Their strategy is an attempt to take an otherwise routine measure to extend public water and sewer to 46 acres and turn it into a debate on whether the council should demand a comprehensive analysis to determine if the 800-plus-acre development is chemically contaminated.

The effort, though, faces two formidable obstacles. First, the county and state lack regulations on which the council could rely in requiring further environmental studies at Turf Valley. Second, because the vast majority of the project is within the public water and sewer district, it would be difficult to deny a petition to fill in gaps, as opposed to expanding those boundaries.

An environmental study commissioned last year by the developer, Mangione Family Enterprises, concluded that chemicals and pesticides used to maintain the golf courses in Turf Valley pose no health hazard.

In addition, further environmental studies will be performed at sites before construction of homes, offices and retail stores are constructed, said James M. Irvin, director of the Department of Public Works, who approved the inclusion of the 46 acres to the Metropolitan District, an administrative act that permits the county to begin charging the developer a fee to pay for future public water and sewer service.

"Each time property exchanges hands out there, it's a matter of business practice now to do a Phase I environmental assessment," Irvin said. "Whoever is going to buy these parcels -- whether it's a developer, a homebuilder, a bank or a grocery store -- they're going to do their own environmental assessment. There will be additional testing going on. Lending institutions require it to make sure they are not taking on a liability they may wish not to have."

Louis Mangione, vice president of Mangione Family Enterprises, also said that further testing is planned.

"There are many, many tests that are left to be done at Turf Valley, and they will be done," he said. "That's the way the system works. It's the way I've always said it will work at Turf Valley."

Testing would also be performed at the site of a school if one were formally planned for Turf Valley, he said.

A public hearing on the inclusion of the 46 acres was necessitated when Marc Norman, a resident of Turf Valley who has demanded extensive environmental testing on the property, formally protested adding the acreage to the Metropolitan District. That hearing is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Soil samples

"It's not a question of don't develop, but develop responsibly," Norman said.

Advantage Environmental Consultants LLC of Jessup performed an environmental assessment of Turf Valley last year. Thirteen soil samples were taken, each 4 inches to 12 inches below the surface. The consultant's analysis found minor concentrations of arsenic, mercury, nitrates and elements of organochlorine pesticides.

Those "do not pose a concern to the current configuration of the site or its proposed redevelopment," the company's report said. "Furthermore, these levels would not be expected to trigger any state or federal requirements, including further investigation or site cleanup."

Norman characterized that study as "inadequate," and he said more testing is necessary before public health risks, if any, can be determined.

He has raised the issue of possible contamination before. This time, Norman is likely to bolster that argument by noting a 60- page federal environmental assessment of the former Ponce De Leon golf course in St. Augustine, Fla., and correspondence by Lora Siegmann Werner, senior regional representative of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Werner, who was asked by Norman to review the report by Advantage Environmental Consultants, wrote him July 11 that, "appropriate collection and analysis methods appear to have been followed."

She also wrote that data "suggests that there is not a public health hazard" while the property is used as a golf course. But Werner wrote, "additional sampling would be necessary to determine whether any chemical exposures at levels of public health concern exist at this site" if the property is developed residentially.

Werner said she considered the 13 samples at Turf Valley "a low number." She also said it would have been preferable had Advantage Environmental Consultants performed an analysis at sites such as the current and former maintenance and chemical storage facilities, because there would be a higher presumption of possible contamination.

Norman has consistently faulted the Turf Valley study because it is based on 13 soil samples and for the areas excluded from the testing.

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