State files lawsuit to restore wetlands

STATE DIGEST

April 19, 2007

Maryland officials filed suit yesterday to require an Eastern Shore race horse breeder to pay millions of dollars in fines and restore a 50-acre wetland that officials say was illegally cleared and filled to create a pasture.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and the state Department of the Environment are seeking an order to require restoration of the site and fines of $10,000 a day since Feb. 16 last year, when environmental inspectors first issued a complaint.

In papers filed in Caroline County Circuit Court, state officials charged property owner Fred Hertrich with violating the state's Nontidal Wetlands Protection Act and the Water Pollution Control Law. Gregory D. Bee, an excavation contractor, also is named in the suit.

Hertrich, a horse breeder who owns car dealerships in Maryland and southern Delaware, did not return telephone calls yesterday. Bee could not be reached.

Last week, state environmental Secretary Shari T. Wilson announced that her agency would review of hundreds of wetlands and pollution cases to look for any lapses in enforcement.

Chris Guy

Board delays property-tax vote

The Board of Public Works delayed voting on the state property tax at its meeting yesterday because Comptroller Peter Franchot was home recovering from an illness.

Board secretary Sheila C. McDonald said a meeting will be scheduled within a few days so that the board can approve a tax rate for fiscal 2008 - which begins July 1 - before the legal deadline of May 1.

The Commission on State Debt has recommended keeping the rate at its current level of 11.2 cents per $100 in assessed value. State property taxes, which make up a small portion of homeowners' bills, are dedicated to repaying state debt.

Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, who has one of three seats on the Board of Public Works and chairs the debt commission, argued that it would be prudent to raise the rate because of the state's projected budget shortfalls.

But the Board of Public Works is expected to maintain the current rate because the other two members, Franchot and Gov. Martin O'Malley, have said they oppose an increase.

Andrew A. Green

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