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Queen Anne's County Approves Massive Development on Bay Island

Four Seasons protesterDespite overwhelming opposition from the public, the Queen Anne County Commission on Tuesday voted 3-2 in favor of moving ahead with a massive waterfront housing development on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

The county’s approval of a revised development agreement for the Four Seasons project means the proposed subdivision will head back to the Maryland Board of Public Works for reconsideration of a wetlands permit. 

In 2007, the state board, led by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, denied a wetlands permit for New Jersey-based Hovnanian Enterprises to build 1,350 homes on the site, 556 acres of farmland and trees beside the Chester River north of Route 50 in Stevensville.  But then the Maryland Court of Appeals last year overturned the state’s denial, saying the board had considered too broad a range of issues -– and was legally required to focus only on the question of whether wetlands could be destroyed.

The state board, in turn, referred the decision back down to the county level.

The developers slightly trimmed the size of the proposal, to 1,079 homes on 425 acres, with a 131 acre park. And it was this revised proposal that the Queen Anne County Commissioners approved this week, sending it back to the state.  No date has yet been set for a new vote on the wetlands permit by the Maryland Board of Public Works.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, and many local residents oppose the project because of the polluted runoff it would add to the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the traffic congestion that would grow on local roads. Other groups opposing Four Seasons include the Kent Island Defense League, Chester River Association, Citizens' Watch-Queen Anne's County, Kent Island Beach Cleanup, and Queen's Landing Homeowners for Transparency.

The project would pile more suburban sprawl on an already crowded island.  Four Seasons is a classic example of poor planning -- a massive housing development proposed for farmland that is likely to impose hidden costs on local residents, in the form of higher taxes for roads, sewers, and infrastructure.  And the new homes are likely to flood, in part because of rising sea levels and sinking land on Kent Island.

During a Sept. 17 public hearing that drew more than 500 people, about 75 percent of the speakers urged the county to “say no” to Four Seasons.

One of those speaking out against the development was Will Baker, President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He said that EPA’s 2010 pollution limits for the estuary and the state plans to meet those limits (called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint) should mean a re-evaluation and denial of the Four Seasons project.

“We are required as a society to reduce pollution in the rivers and creeks and Chesapeake Bay, not increase pollution,” Baker told the audience.  “One inch of rain, falling on one acre of paved  surface, produces 30,000 gallons of polluted runoff. We cannot add more pollution to the rivers and streams.”

You can view a video of his entire remarks here.

The ball is now once again in the state’s court.   We can only hope that state officials think long and hard before approving a wetlands permit for this ill-conceived and highly unpopular project.

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation 

 

Comments

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I suppose the old saying that "money talks and bull###t walks" is appropriate...what other reason could it bel?

Great article Tom Pelton! I only wish that you could have singled out the two commissioners who voted on the side of the majority of the citizens and on the side of the environment. Commissioner Bob Simmons and commissioner David Dunmyer. Thank you Mr. Baker for speaking so passionately at our hearing on Kent Island.

Local goverments are the biggest threat to cleaning up the bay long term not Ag (shriking every year), or WWTP. It is like the fox guarding the chicken house. All the zoning officals, planning department heads and elected officials are controled by the developers and their $$$. They let developers come in do everything on the cheap and leave the local citizens with the bill for a dirtier bay, overcrowed roads, overcrowed schools, more septics, etc.

Tom,
As we've discussed before, development is not a popularity contest, it's a legal right. The poor planning you mentioned may not solely reside with the developers. How about commissioners,planning and zoning departments, state agencies,and elected officials ? I appreciate the passion, the effort as well as CBF's cause. I too agree and support personally and professionally with the Clean Water Blue print and the eventual goals. However, now is the time for CBF to flex their muscle! Public rhetoric has very little impact towards a real goal. As a CBF member and supporter, I am expecting Mr. Baker to take that passion to the right agencies and lobby for the strictest adherence to the Wetland, NTW and Stormwater Management permit requirements. Two years from now, if and when, the developers overcome and adhere to these requirements and are granted permits, then monitoring and enforcement should be of interest to the community,local agencies and of course CBF.
Thank you for your concern.
Jack

Thanks, Jack. I always appreciate your insights and very well-informed opinions.

I would argue, however, that we shouldn't be talking about rights so much as responsibilities. Yes, a county may have a legal right to approve a massive, ugly, sprawling development that pollutes the bay and degrades the local quality of life for the sake of a small number of people who will make money off the deal. But that doesn't mean it's a responsible thing to do. It's more responsible to think about the long-term good of the community and the Chesapeake Bay. Restraint, conservation, and wisdom should prevail over simply exercising legal rights.

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