Start of con­struc­tion get­ting close on Four Sea­sons

Record Observer - - News - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

CH­ESTER — Con­struc­tion plans are mov­ing for­ward on the con­tro­ver­sial Four Sea­sons hous­ing devel­op­ment on Kent Is­land.

And the de­vel­oper, K. Hov­na­nian Homes, has one less le­gal headache. The Queen Anne’s Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion has de­cided not to ap­peal the Queen Anne’s County Board of Ap­peals’ ap­proval of the project’s first phase.

“We are anx­ious to get started with the project,” said Mike Irons, vice pres­i­dent of land devel­op­ment for Hov­na­nian. “We are ex­cited that no fur­ther ap­peals were filed.”

The de­vel­oper has recorded the sub­di­vi­sion plat with the county gov­ern­ment and county of­fi­cials ex­pect to is­sue the grad­ing per­mit for the project any day now, ac­cord­ing to J. Steven Co­hoon, the county’s pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties plan­ner.

“Once the grad­ing per­mit is is­sued, then con­struc­tion would start on the project,” Co­hoon said.

Planned for Cas­tle Ma­rina Road, the en­tire hous­ing project is 1,079 units, but the county has only ap­proved phase one, which is 162 res­i­den­tial units, a mix of sin­gle­fam­ily homes and con­do­mini­ums for 55 and older per­sons.

Hov­na­nian ear­lier had ap­plied for the grad­ing per­mit, which was be­ing pro­cessed last week. But the de­vel­oper hasn’t ap­plied for the build­ing per­mit yet be­cause “they have to do a fair amount of site work” first, in­clud­ing the grad­ing and the in­stal­la­tion of util­i­ties be­fore the build­ing per­mit is is­sued, Co­hoon said.

One of the most con­tro­ver­sial parts of the project is a sewer line the de­vel­oper plans to run un­der Cox Creek, which is nec­es­sary for the project. A sep­a­rate per­mit will be needed for that, Co­hoon said.

In a re­lated devel­op­ment, the Queen Anne’s Con­ser­va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion has de­cided not to ap­peal the county ap­peals board’s ap­proval of phase one. This past Au­gust, the ap­peals board by voice vote ap­proved the first phase, but gave the writ­ten de­ci­sion on Oct. 21.

QACA’s Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Jay Fal­stad an­nounced on Facebook the group’s de­ci­sion on Nov. 21.

The group still be­lieves the ev­i­dence be­fore the board did not sup­port its con­clu­sions that the Four Sea­sons project will not cause traf­fic prob­lems, that it ad­e­quately han­dles stormwa­ter run-off, and that its high-rise con­dos on the shore­line are com­pat- ible with the neigh­bor­hood, Fal­stad wrote.

The board’s ap­proval is only for 162 units of the devel­op­ment and “that if and when ap­provals are sought for ad­di­tional units, we and other op­po­nents of Four Sea­sons will have the op­por­tu­nity to re­new our ob­jec­tions in a more fa­vor­able en­vi­ron­ment – i.e. one in which the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of Kent Is­land to traf­fic con­ges­tion and sea level rise will be more ap­par­ent, as will be the ugly in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of the condo units when they are ac­tu­ally built,” Fal­stad said.

For now, QACA will re­di­rect its ef­forts to­ward the lit­i­ga­tion the group and the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, Ch­ester River As­so­ci­a­tion and oth­ers are pur­su­ing against the is­suance of the wet­lands li­cense re­quired by Four Sea­sons (in­clud­ing its Phase One), Fal­stad wrote.

“[We] and the neigh­bors of Four Sea­sons will be watch­ing closely to see whether there is any re­peat of Hov­na­nian past Clean Wa­ter Act vi­o­la­tions as such time as phase one may be un­der con­struc­tion,” Fal­stad said.

He is re­fer­ring to the de­vel­oper’s agree­ment to pay a $1 mil­lion civil penalty to re­solve al­leged Clean Wa­ter Act vi­o­la­tions at 591 con­struc­tion sites in 18 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

The U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment made the an­nounced of set­tle­ment in 2010.

In Queen Anne’s County, the Four Sea­sons devel­op­ment has been in court for years in le­gal battle between en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and the de­vel­oper.

This past Septem­ber, a Cir­cuit Court judge up­held the state Board of Pub­lic Works’ de­ci­sion to grant the wet­lands li­cense for the project.

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