Four Seasons hearing to be continued Aug. 10
CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Board of Appeals extended its hearing for a third night regarding the previous approval of phase one site plans for the proposed Four Seasons development on Kent Island during its Thursday, July 21, meeting. The development is proposed to be built by K. Hovnanian but is currently being appealed by the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association and citizens Robert and Carolyn Foley and James and Karen Wimsatt.
After eight hours of listening to arguments for and against the 1,100-plus home age-restricted community along Castle Marina and Benton Roads in Chester, the board extended the meeting to Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the new county office building at 110 Vincit St., Centreville. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. and will start with public comment.
The board has limited public comment to those who signed up to speak during the July 13 and July 21 meetings. After public comment is heard, Joseph Stevens, attorney for K. Hovnanian, will have a chance for rebuttal of previous witnesses. The meeting will finish with closing arguments from Stevens and Jesse Hammock, attorney for the appellants.
Finishing up K. Hovnanian’s case from the July 13 carryover, Katherine Falk, a professional traffic engineer with Kimley Horn, began the night of testimony. Falk was part of the group hired by the county as a consultant to review a traffic study previously completed by Traffic Concepts. Horn agreed with the study and said the development would not create a substantial traffic increase.
Joe Mehra, a witness for the appellants and founder of MCV Associates Inc., said the 2015 study didn’t accurately assess the traffic situation because the study was done June 16, which was a half-day of school. Counts taken this year, followed a January snowstorm, he said.
Mehra said counts should not be taken on half-days, holidays and bad weather days because the counter wants to capture traffic on a typical day. Mehra, referencing statistics from the State Highway Administration, said traffic is increasing on Kent Island.
Mehra said the entire traffic study should be redone “to confirm the validity of the results because based on what’s out there now in the report you cannot really rely on the results.”
Barry Griffith, president of Lane Engineering, testified the site is compatible with the existing area.
By definition, Griffith said, compatibility “implies the different land uses can coexist without conflict provided they are designed to work well together and not have overly negative or adverse effects on one another” and is the “basic premise supporting the planning concept of mixed-use development.”
Looking at communities such as Castle Marina, Gibson’s Grant, Red Apple Promenade and Queens Landing, Griffith said, from a planning view, the Four Seasons project is completely compatible with the surrounding area.
Jeff Halpren, principal architect at Halpren Architects in Annapolis, who testified for the appellants, disagreed. He said the site designs in phase one are not compatible with the surrounding area.
When you talk about compatibility it’s very often talked about in very general terms in terms of densities and things like that,” Halpren said. “But when you really come down to look ... it’s a much more fine grain thing than that.”
Halpren said compatibility consists of buildings’ edges meeting the edges of other structures, looking at the scale, rhythm and proportions of the surrounding buildings. He said it’s not just the building use or type that is taken into account.
Talking about the single array of buildings proposed for phase one, which includes four buildings side-by-side in a line, Halpren said though the property has a proposed tree buffer to divide the Four Seasons property and the neighborhood next to it, that tree line becomes a wall. Halpren said if someone were to look at the existing neighborhood from the buffer line they would see a house, a space, a house and a space — a “staccato” with openings that gives a sense of context.
Looking the other way at what is being proposed by K. Hovnanian, Halpren said, someone would see wide units going onto narrow sites. “When you do that you create something that visually reads as a wall. It no longer reads as a series of separate, free-standing structures. There’s no longer this sense of ventilation,” Halpren said.
Diane Cameron, director of the conservation program at Audubon Naturalist Society, testified about the proposed stormwater management system. She said the environmental site design does not fully meet the maximum extent practicable because the designer has not “exhausted” its options in design.
Cameron said ESD is a way of “designing the built environment so it’s in harmony and uses the natural environment to management the stormwater – specifically woodlands, wetlands, the topography of the site, the existing soils.”
Though the site has ESD elements like ponds, Cameron recommended expanding the site’s 45 percent open space to 60 percent to have “ample natural area.” She also suggested “robust” forest regeneration and soil enhancements. Cameron also recommended expanding the four acres of planned forest conservation to 40 acres.
Two enhancements that could be made to the proposed stormwater ponds, she said, would be to add a vegetative bench and to add floating “islands of plants” in the ponds to remove more pollutants.
When testimony ended after seven hours, the board accepted comments from citizens who remained. Citizens opposed to the development said they were concerned about an increase in traffic and how that would affect the public’s safety and welfare, environmental issues, expected sea level rise of Kent Island in the next 50 years, if the site design meets the Stevensville and Chester Community Plan, and the number of homes proposed.
Speaking in favor of the project, two K. Hovnanian employees, one a materials supplier and the other a saleswoman, said it is a good company that builds quality homes and they both of them want to eventually live in the development. People said that traffic is already bad on Kent Island, but that it didn’t stop people from moving to here in the past. One person in favor of the project said the developer has gotten all the necessary permits and approvals but hasn’t been able to put a shovel in the ground.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
The Queen Anne’s County Board of Appeals listened to arguments from attorneys Joseph Stevens, middle facing the board, and Jesse Hammock, far right facing the board, regarding the previous approval of phase one site plans for the proposed Four Seasons development on Kent Island. The meeting was held on Thursday, July 21, in Centreville.