In the latest turn in a four-year legal battle, the state's Critical Area Commission filed suit yesterday seeking to force an Annapolis building contractor to tear down the luxury compound he built without permits on a 2-acre island on the Magothy River.
Commission officials said the action against Daryl C. Wagner and his company, DCW Dutchship Island LLC, marks the first time a beefed-up environmental enforcement law, approved last spring by state legislators, has been used.
Four years ago, Anne Arundel zoning inspectors discovered that Wagner had built a 3,000-square-foot house, with a swimming pool, a replica of a lighthouse, a gazebo, a 40-by-8-foot driveway and a boat ramp on the 2-acre Little Dobbins Island without obtaining permits from state or local authorities.
"This is an example that the old system really was not working," said Margaret McHale, the commission's chairman. "The island was significantly denuded of trees and other vegetation. Restoration of this site is long overdue."
The new 13-page law, McHale said, gives the commission authority to pursue violations in Maryland's Chesapeake and coastal bays watersheds.
"In the past, most counties, including Anne Arundel, handled violations like this, after the fact," McHale said. "With this new bill, we just have a lot more tools to work with."
Wagner's lawyer, Robert J. Fuoco, called the new law ludicrous and illegal.
"This law was in reaction to my client's case, but it's illegal to go back and retroactively apply this to him," Fuoco said. "If it is legal, then there are going to be hundreds of cases of retroactive variances. It's just not legal. It won't stand."
The project is the subject of two pending lawsuits, one filed by the county and an appeal filed by the state after the county's zoning appeals board granted retroactive variances to allow Wagner to keep his house.
Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold declined to comment on the commission's lawsuit, which does not involve the county, but he said he supports any effort to enhance environmental enforcement.
"Tough environmental enforcement has been a hallmark of this administration," Leopold said. "We've hired new inspectors. This case has been nothing but a black eye for the county. I support anything that is consistent with our policy on enforcement."