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Review sought on Allegany development

The Baltimore Sun

Opponents of a 4,300-home planned community near a state forest in eastern Allegany County have asked the state's highest court to review whether local officials acted properly in approving the project.

A lawyer for a group of residents opposed to Terrapin Run filed an appeal with the Maryland Court of Appeals challenging the development's approval in 2005 by the county Board of Zoning Appeals.

The appeal is the latest move in a two-year political and legal dispute over the development, which would create Allegany's second-largest community if built as planned. Last month, the Court of Special Appeals overturned a 2006 Circuit Court finding in favor of the opponents and ruled that the county board had acted appropriately in declaring the project "in harmony with" Allegany's comprehensive plan.

Opponents contend that local zoning officials should have rejected the project as not consistent with the county's comprehensive plan. They also argue that the development would jeopardize water supplies, stream quality and the area's rural character, which had earned that stretch of U.S. 40 designation as a scenic byway.

"We continue to believe Terrapin Run is the wrong development in the wrong place, and that the county's Comprehensive Plan never envisioned anything like this development," Dale Sams, one of the opponents, wrote in an e-mail.

Sams also contended that the special appeals court decision, if not reversed, could undermine "citizen-based planning" and Smart Growth in Maryland by giving local officials wide discretion to deviate from comprehensive plans updated every six years after extensive public hearings and comments. The court's opinion likened the plan to a "mere guide" that local officials need not follow to the letter.

Craig Leonard, project manager for PDC Inc., the Columbia-based development firm planning Terrapin Run, did not return calls seeking comment on the appeal.

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