The state planning department announced today that it will join with opponents seeking to block a 4,300-home planned community near a state forest in eastern Allegany County.
Maryland Planning Secretary Richard E. Hall said his department will file a brief in the case, now on appeal before the state's high court. The lawsuit seeks a review of whether local officials acted properly in approving the project, called Terrapin Run, in a rural and environmentally sensitive area that is adjacent to Green Ridge State Forest.
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.
The Court of Special Appeals in April 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.
"Maryland has a long history of solid planning law that protects communities and natural resources while promoting sustainable economic development. Inherent in this effort is the responsibility to engage Maryland's citizens in the process," Hall said in a statement.
"Consistency between local governments' comprehensive plans and their zoning is essential for this system to work," he said. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has also filed a brief in support of the appeal.
"For a court to decide that a comprehensive plan does not need to be [followed] ... that it's arbitrary, is frightening, as Maryland is facing so much growth pressure," said the foundation's executive director, Kim Coble.