Ap­peal filed on rul­ing for Four Sea­sons

Record Observer - - Front Page - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­pub.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — A Cir­cuit Court judge’s de­ci­sion to up­hold the wet­lands li­cense for the pro­posed Four Sea­sons hous­ing de­vel­op­ment has been ap­pealed by en­vi­ron­men­tal groups to a higher court.

The ap­peal doesn’t the­o­ret­i­cally stop the de­vel­oper, K. Hov­na­nian Homes, from pro­ceed­ing with con­struc­tion un­til a higher court stops it. The Queen Anne’s county govern­ment has al­ready ap­proved phase one of the pro­ject which is 162 res­i­den­tial units, a mix of sin­gle-fam­ily homes and con­do­mini­ums on Cas­tle Ma­rina Road. The to­tal pro­ject is 1,079 units.

Last month, Re­tired Judge John W. Sause Jr. of the Cir­cuit Court for Queen Anne’s County af­firmed the state Board of Pub­lic Works’ de­ci­sion to is­sue a wet­lands li­cense, which the pro­ject re­quires.

The judge’s de­ci­sion was en­tered in the docket on Sept. 20, and the pe­ti­tion­ers, mostly en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, had 30 days to ap­peal, which they did on the last pos­si­ble day, Thurs­day, Oct. 20.

A spokesman for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, one of the pe­ti­tion­ers, said the group’s ap­peal was filed in Cir­cuit

Court, but it will be heard by the Court of Spe­cial Ap­peals.

“The Cir­cuit Court com­mit­ted re­versible er­ror and we iden­ti­fied a spe­cial is­sue,” said Paul Smail, at­tor­ney with the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion. “...We iden­ti­fied [at least] one ques­tion we would like the ap­pel­lant court to re­view.”

Smail de­clined to name those is­sues for the time be­ing, but the is­sues would be iden­ti­fied in about 10 days in an in­for­ma­tional re­port filed with the Court of Spe­cial Ap­peals. He rep­re­sents the other pe­ti­tion­ers as well, in­clud­ing the Queen Anne’s Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, Midshore River­keeper Conser vancy, the Ch­ester River As­so­ci­a­tion and two pri­vate res­i­dents.

The pe­ti­tion­ers needed to wait un­til the last minute to ap­peal be­cause of the time needed to re­view the judge’s 65-page-long opin­ion, and there are sev­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal groups in­volved, Smail said.

The Court of Spe­cial Ap­peals may not hear the ap­peal un­til early next year, but it will de­pend on the court when that will be, he said.

“We be­lieve Judge Sause’s rul­ing had some er­rors and we are look­ing for ward to chal­leng­ing his de­ci­sion,” said Jay Fal­stad, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Queen Anne’s Conser va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion.

Like the lawyer, Fal­stad de­clined to dis­cuss the is­sues in­volved in the ap­peal, but said the ap­peal will be ar­tic­u­lated in the in­for­ma­tional doc­u­ment filed later.

When reached for com­ment,

an at­tor­ney for the de­vel­oper, pre­ferred to make a short state­ment. “Our com­pany will eval­u­ate the ap­peal and de­cide how to pro­ceed,” Joe Stevens said.

The wet­lands li­cense, which the Cir­cuit Court up­held, al­lows the de­vel­oper to in­stall a sewer line un­der Cox Creek, con­struct a com­mu­nity pier, and for stormwa­ter man­age­ment.

On the county level, there are some mi­nor is­sues to work out be­fore con­struc­tion.

The de­vel­oper is up­dat­ing bonds needed to guar­an­tee work on the pro­ject and the com­pany is mov­ing for­ward in sub­mit­ting sub­di­vi­sion plats to the county for fi­nal sig­na­ture, said Steven Co­hoon, pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties plan­ner for Queen Anne’s County.

The bonds guar­an­tee the de­vel­oper’s work on road im­prove­ments, sewer line con­struc­tion and storm wa­ter man­age­ment, Co­hoon said. New con­struc­tion es­ti­mates are needed to up­date the bonds from 2005 when the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ap­proved the first part of the pro­ject.

This past Au­gust, the county’s Board of Ap­peals in 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 of the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

At the present time, the Queen Anne’s Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion hasn’t ap­pealed the Board of Ap­peals’ de­ci­sion, Fal­stad said on Mon­day, Oct. 24.

“We re­ceived the Board of Ap­peals’ de­ci­sion last week, and we’re in the process of re­view­ing it,” he said.

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