Four Sea­sons de­vel­op­ment clears an­other hur­dle

Record Observer - - News - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­pub.com

CH­ESTER — The pro­posed Four Sea­sons hous­ing de­vel­op­ment, tied up in court for years, has cleared a ma­jor le­gal hur­dle, pos­si­bly paving the way for con­struc­tion on Cas­tle Ma­rina Road.

Re­tired Judge John W. Sause Jr. of the Cir­cuit Court for Queen Anne’s County has af­firmed the state Board of Pub­lic Works’ de­ci­sion to is­sue a wet­lands li­cense, which the project re­quired. The judge is­sued the rul­ing on Sept. 19.

The wet­lands li­cense al­lows the de­vel­oper, K. Hov­na­nian Homes, to in­stall a sewer line un­der the Cox Creek, con­struct a com­mu­nity pier, and for stormwa­ter man­age­ment.

Con­struc­tion can now be­gin on phase one of the project, which is 162 res­i­den­tial units, a mix of sin­gle-fam­ily homes and con­do­mini­ums, al­ready ap­proved by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, said Steven Co­hoon, pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties plan­ner for the Queen Anne’s County.

The to­tal project, done in phases, is 1,079 res­i­den­tial units for 55 and older per­sons.

Four Sea­sons has a valid wet­lands li­cense, Co­hoon said, and the court said the li­cense was cor­rectly is­sued. “They can move for­ward with con­struc­tion at this point,” Co­hoon said.

The de­vel­oper only needs bonds and to record the sub­di­vi­sion plat with the county be­fore con­struc­tion can be­gin, he said.

When reached for com­ment, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the de­vel­oper made a short state­ment. “We are pleased with the [judge’s] de­ci­sion. It’s what we ex­pected. As far as the next step, we are await­ing the Board of Ap­peals’ writ­ten de­ci­sion,” said Mike Irons, vice pres­i­dent of land de­vel­op­ment for K. Hov­na­nian Homes.

Irons is re­fer­ring to county’s Board of Ap­peals who, this past Au­gust, dis­missed an ap­peal by the Queen Anne’s Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion and in­stead ap­proved the sub­di­vi­sion and site plan for phase one of the de­vel­op­ment, up­hold­ing the ear­lier de­ci­sion by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

The Cir­cuit Court judge’s de­ci­sion deals with a pe­ti­tion filed in De­cem­ber 2015 seek­ing to over­turn the Board of Pub­lic Works’s ap­proval of the wet­lands li­cense. The pe­ti­tion­ers in­cluded the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, Queen Anne’s Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, Mid­shore River­keeper Con­ser­vancy, the Ch­ester River As­so­ci­a­tion, and two pri­vate res­i­dents, Robert W. Fo­ley and Hal Fis­cher, who both live near the pro­posed project.

In its pe­ti­tion, the groups asked the Cir­cuit Court to re­verse the Board of Pub­lic Works’s de­ci­sion for the wet­lands li­cense, and “award the pe­ti­tion­ers all costs, and for all other just and proper re­lief.”

The pe­ti­tion, when talk­ing about the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, asks the court to set aside the li­cense and re­mand it back to the board with in­struc­tions to deny the li­cense or amend it to “re­duce the im­pacts to state wet­lands and in­tro­duc­tion of nu­tri­ent, sed­i­ment and bac­te­ria pol­lu­tion into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, its trib­u­taries and local streams.”

When reached for com­ment, Tom Zolper, a spokesman for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, said the group is still re­view­ing the de­ci­sion from the Cir­cuit Court judge and de­ter­min­ing the group’s next step.

The judge’s de­ci­sion is 65 pages long with several ref­er­ences to other long doc­u­ments.

If the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion de­cides to ap­peal the Cir­cuit Court judge’s rul­ing, it would be heard by the Mary­land Court of Ap­peals.

The is­sue of the wet­lands li­cense and the lit­i­ga­tion that fol­lowed dates back 17 years.

The de­vel­oper ap­plied for a wet­lands li­cense in 1999 and the Board of Pub­lic Works de­nied the ap­pli­ca­tion. Then the de­vel­oper sought ju­di­cial review of the de­nial and the mat­ter was ul­ti­mately re­manded back to the board for fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion by the state Court of Ap­peals.

A re­vised li­cense pro­posal was sub­mit­ted to the board in 2013, but the board de­ferred ac­tion and the de­vel­oper sought a court or­der in 2014 to com­pel the board to vote promptly on the li­cense ap­pli­ca­tion. The Court of Ap­peals re­turned the ap­pli­ca­tion to the board for pro­cess­ing and, in Novem­ber 2015, the board voted 2-to-1 to ap­prove the li­cense.

And then the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion and the other groups filed for a ju­di­cal review of the board’s de­ci­sion in De­cem­ber 2015 with the Cir­cuit Court. Then this past Sept. 19, the judge af­firmed the board’s de­ci­sion, mak­ing the wet­lands li­cense valid.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

An artist’s ren­der­ing of the en­trance to the pro­posed Four Sea­sons de­vel­op­ment is shown.

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