After 18 months, Frall Developers Inc. has its water.

State administrators approved last week a hotly contested water-use permit that the developer needs to build three residential subdivisions southwestof town.

However, the Mount Airy-based builder, which filed an applicationfor the permit in March 1990, received less water than requested.

Administrators from the Water Resources Division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources approved the permit for a maximum average of 65,000 gallons of water per day, down from Frall's request of 90,460 gallons per day.

The reduction was based on the current zoning of the 516 acres off Penn Shop Road where the developments -- Harvest Ridge, Penn Shop Estates and Sam Hill Estates -- are planned. The current zoning allows 197 lots.

"We fully expected (Frall) would get the allocation, but we're relieved that they (state administrators) have given less," said Eugenia Gregory, president of the Penn Shop Regional Civic Association Inc.

Frall needed the permit before building a water system that would tap three 200-foot wells and provide water to the planned developments.

At a public hearing in March, dozens of adjacent residents, many of whom get water from wells, said they feared the three developments would have an adverse effect on their water supply.

In addition to the per-day average limit, the permit also allows a maximum average withdrawal of

98,400 gallons per day during the month of maximum use, down from Frall's original request of 141,000 gallons.

"I think it's better to be cautious than to overcommit the water resources," said Gregory, whose association is composed of about 40 households.

"They (Frall) can always go back and ask for more, but once they get the water up front, we can't domuch about it," she said.

The state permit process allows appealsof permit decisions. However, after a meeting Thursday night of the association's executive committee, Gregory said the group did not plan to contest the decision.

The permit, which is effective immediately, is good for 12 years. If the permit is not put to use within twoyears, it will expire, state administrators said.

According to terms of the permit, the development must submit pumping records to thestate twice each year to ensure compliance with the water-use limits.

"There is sufficient ground water to meet the needs of the project without creating an unreasonable impact on neighboring wells or onthe ground water resource," Gary Setzer, director of DNR's water andmineral management program, wrote in the decision, which was released Monday.

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