Pier opponents vow to fight on

Dobbins Island project would harm the bay, say environmentalists

August 05, 2007|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Sun reporter

Anne Arundel County environmentalists plan to keep fighting a Dobbins Island owner's pier, which they claim threatens the health of the Chesapeake Bay - even as a county panel last week denied they had the legal right to mount such a challenge.

"The concern isn't just over this one pier, it's over the county's decision to allow this type of construction that could kill all this work," said Beth Lefebvre, a spokeswoman for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "If you take this one pier and magnify it up and down the coast, you could begin to realize the negative effect it's going to have on the health of the bay."

The county Board of Appeals voted, 4-3, Wednesday to deny "standing" to the Magothy River Association and Chesapeake Bay Foundation because neither group owns property on the island.

"They failed to meet the test for affected [parties] in this case," said Board of Appeals Chairman William C. Knight III, who voted with the majority. "I support the work that they do. In the past, I've even contributed to their cause. But in this case, they just didn't have the standing."

The ruling was not entirely unexpected.

In April, the board denied standing to the same two groups in the case of Daryl C. Wagner, who was given retroactive approval late last year for a large home he built several years ago on nearby Little Island. In that case, the panel ruled that the parties could not challenge the construction because they were not within "sight and sound" of the building.

The two groups were among challengers to a county decision allowing the Dobbins Island pier. State officials signed off on the pier, saying they did not know county variances were being challenged and after concluding the structure would not have a direct impact on the environment.

Magothy River Association President Paul Spadaro said that he would appeal the Board of Appeals ruling to Anne Arundel County Circuit Court and said his group had recently received a $15,000 donation to cover legal expenses.

Spadaro said his organization is working to obtain private funding to buy the island from owner David L. Clickner Sr. and would fight Clickner through the courts to stop him from building on the 7-acre crescent in the Magothy River.

Spadaro and other activists say Clickner's 200-foot-long pier blocks sunlight, damaging 1,600 square feet of bay grasses the two groups planted to create habitats for fish and crabs and infuse the unhealthy bay waters with oxygen.

The groups also say sediment from nearby construction activity will damage three years of delicate work creating oyster reefs, which are now home to 160,000 oysters that help filter pollutants in the water.

"We've got thousands of volunteer hours dedicated to this, and the pier is going to damage it," said Lefebvre, the spokeswoman for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Lefebvre said the foundation has not decided whether to appeal; the Magothy River Association has 30 days to file an appeal in court.

ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

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