Island hearing postponed

Environmental groups seek to stop construction on Dobbins

April 18, 2007|By Dan Lamothe | Dan Lamothe,SUN REPORTER

Environmental groups attempting to block the construction of a lavish home on a private island in the Magothy River have until July to find the money to purchase the island, its owner said yesterday.

David L. Clickner Sr., who owns Dobbins Island, a 7-acre island near the mouth of the river, said he agreed to postpone a two-day hearing before the Board of Appeals scheduled to begin today, at the request of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Annapolis-based foundation, which has opposed the project along with the Magothy River Association, said it has several experts who are unavailable to testify this week, Clickner said.

"They weren't given a fair opportunity to present all their best witnesses, and we will give them that chance," Clickner said. "At least then we have given them a fair shot, and they can't complain if they lose" their appeal.

Foundation officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The delay also gives the river association a chance to pursue money from several government agencies it says are interested in buying the island for use as a wildlife sanctuary or park. Boaters have long used the privately owned island for recreation.

If the river association "cannot come up with the money by July, then we will go forward as planned," said Clickner, who called the delay an "olive branch" he is extending to his opposition.

The gesture has been greeted with open arms, said Paul Spadaro, association president.

"There never [has] been a time where the MRA hasn't been interested in buying Dobbins Island and making it an open space," he said. "We both agreed that there are more productive possibilities out there, and it's worth going the extra mile to explore them."

Spadaro said he is committed to finding "some of the best minds in the Washington area" to reach a compromise now that Clickner is open to negotiations. He declined to name the interested government agencies.

Both sides cautioned yesterday that any compromise will likely be complicated.

Clickner, a Glen Burnie businessman who purchased the island in 2004 for $825,000, said he has recently received offers near $10 million for the land and would like to find another place to live nearby if the island is sold.

Spadaro said the value of the island has yet to be determined.

The appeal, which the Board of Appeals will now take up in July, was filed by the bay foundation and the MRA.

Both groups question whether Stephen M. LeGendre, Anne Arundel County administrative hearing officer, should have granted Clickner variances needed for construction of a nearly 5,000-square-foot home.

The delayed hearing is the latest in a series of recent developments tied to construction on the Magothy River.

On April 3, the Board of Appeals ruled that the MRA and the foundation have no standing to challenge Daryl C. Wagner, who built a home on Little Island, complete with patio, pool and gazebo, without permits.

He is seeking permits retroactively from the county. The state Critical Area Commission and the bay foundation want the house torn down.

Since taking office in December, County Executive John R. Leopold has taken a hard line on construction in environmentally sensitive areas and introduced legislation that the County Council approved March 3 that imposes a $500-per-day fine on people who live in homes without permits.

On Monday, the County Council also approved a bill by Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican, that gives the county the power to stop developers from building on land if they have compromised environmentally sensitive areas.

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