Hearing tomorrow on completing water, sewer service to Turf Valley

Group to oppose move on grounds that land may be contaminated

April 15, 2007|BY A SUN REPORTER

It has been a long time since anything related to Turf Valley, the luxury planned community and resort in Ellicott City, has been treated as routine.

And tomorrow will be no different when the County Council holds a hearing on legislation to, in effect, extend public water and sewer to about 70 acres in the sprawling development.

The legislation is largely regarded as pedestrian because most of the 800-plus-acre development is served by public water and sewer.

Technically, the three bills, introduced by Councilman Calvin Ball on behalf of County Executive Ken Ulman, would add the property to the Metropolitan District, an administrative act that would permit the county to charge the developer a fee for public water and sewer service.

But a group of citizens will seek to block the measures and push the county to enact regulations requiring comprehensive testing for possible soil contamination from chemicals used to treat what once were three golf courses in Turf Valley.

The Howard County Citizens Association said this month that it "strongly opposes further approval of development proposals for the Turf Valley golf course because of a possible threat to public health."

An environmental study commissioned in 2005 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, county officials and the developer have said further environmental studies would be performed at sites before homes, offices and retail stores are constructed.

Marc Norman, a Turf Valley resident, has criticized the soil testing there as inadequate and urged the county to enact legislation to require testing before former golf courses can be developed.

As a councilman -- and one month from November's general election -- Ulman said that he was "concerned about the potential chemical hazards related to the development of land which had been used as a golf course."

Those chemicals, he said, years later "can continue to pose a significant threat to air and soil quality on the site and in surrounding communities."

The county is not prohibited from enacting laws to require soil testing, the state attorney general's office said in February in a letter to Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, who heads the House Environmental Matters Committee.

It also said the county could do so only "so long as it does not attempt to impose environmental standards such as those used by the state to determine whether there is an unacceptable risk to public health or the environment."

Failure to pass the three bills, though, would be unusual because the county has consistently approved petitions to fill in gaps within the water and sewer district.

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