State approves shoreline project

O'Malley opposes Charles County plan

May 22, 2008|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,Sun reporter

The state Board of Public Works approved yesterday a marina, observation piers and a shoreline project for the Villages at Swan Point, a Charles County development, over the objection of Gov. Martin O'Malley, who expressed concern about the negative environmental impact on the Chesapeake Bay and the area's wetlands.

O'Malley didn't state his reason for voting against the wetlands license for the project during the public meeting, saying he would explain his position in a letter he plans to write to the board. The other members, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, voted for the license.

The Swan Point project encompasses 900 acres and includes 400 residences. The Swan Point Development Co., a joint venture between U.S. Steel and Brookfield Homes, is planning to expand the site to about 1,500 homes. The project has been billed as environmentally conscious and as a way to bring recreational opportunities and economic development to the area.

Charles R. Schaller, an attorney for the developer, said the latest technology has been used to limit the project's environmental impact and that plans call for stabilizing about two miles of severely eroded shoreline.

State Sen. Thomas Middleton and Del. Murray D. Levy, Charles County Democrats, said they are satisfied that environmental protections are in place, and two homeowner groups told the board that the developers listened and responded to their concerns.

Some residents objected to several aspects of the project, which they said would destroy the natural beauty of the area along the Potomac River. It also would destroy a bird habitat, the residents said.

"Is it even possible for development of a critical area to be environmentally responsible?" Nancy Schertler, an area resident, testified before the board.

Last year, O'Malley and the Board of Public Works denied a key permit for a 1,300-home development on Kent Island. The developer has since sued the state.

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