Development foes offer alternative


Lower Broadneck residents who oppose the construction of 153 town homes on the Little Magothy River have offered an alternative plan that they say would be more environmentally sensitive.

By shifting construction away from the river's banks, the developer of Woods Landing Section 2 would down cut down fewer trees and pave less of the 34-acre site, a landscape architect for the opponents told the County Board of Appeals Monday night.

The residents of Woods Landing Section 1 say the proposed subdivision violates environmental laws and have challenged its approval by the county Office of Planning and Zoning.

William Lannom, a consultant with Landtech Inc., said the developer, Woods Landing Joint Venture, could concentrate construction inland, away from the banks of the Little Magothy, on parcels set aside as recreational use. Those parcels are served by existing streets, reducing the number of trees that would have to be cleared and paved, he said.

The shift inland would bring the subdivision more closely into compliance with the state Chesapeake Bay Critical Area law which bars most development within 100 feet of high tide and limits the amount of pavement and other impervious surfaces, he said.

The developer has proposed building within 50 feet of the water.

Residents say that Lannom's alternative shows that neither the developer nor the county were serious about complying with the 8-year-old state law, which requires development to be more environmentally sensitive within 1,000 feet of the bay and tributaries.

Under the county's critical area enforcement program -- approved by the County Council and state Critical Area Commission in 1988 -- Woods Landing Section 2 and 27 other Broadneck subdivisions that were on a waiting list for public sewer are exempt from all restrictions. The county only asks developers of those projects to comply "insofar as possible."

Stricter enforcement on those developments, whose owners had already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars designing their projects and earning county approvals, would be unfair, county officials say.

The state Critical Area Commission, which is reviewing the county's enforcement program, has said some restrictions, including the 100-foot buffer, should apply to all subdivisions.

And the residents say Lannom's alternative plan shows that the county failed to enforce its own "insofar as possible" rule.

Attorneys representing the county Office of Planning and Zoning and the developer aggressively challenged Lannom's testimony because he is not a registered professional engineer.

"He has no expertise to say these are soundly engineered plats," said Harry Blumenthal, representing the developer.

"I would join in Mr. Blumenthal's objection," said Assistant County Attorney Jamie Baer, who also grilled Lanham about why he never allowed county planners to review his alternative.

If Section 2 had been redrawn as extensively as Lannom suggested, Baer said the developer would have had to apply to the county to replace or modify a 10-year-old special exception allowing town houses.

Arguments before the appeals board will continue at 6:30 p.m. June 18.

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