West and Rhode Riverkeeper

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Commission nixes controversial Critical Area project in south county

Commission nixes controversial Critical Area project in south county

Published in the Annapolis Capital, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018

By E.B. Furgurson III

Maryland’s Critical Area Commission has effectively halted a controversial south county waterfront development and ordered Anne Arundel County to correct problems in its program to enforce Critical Area development rules.

The commission voted Wednesday to make the county correct deficiencies in its planning and zoning procedures that allowed the preliminary approval of the previously denied project along Deep Cove Creek in Churchton.

In a letter to the county, the commission also said any approvals granted under the part of the program deemed to be deficient are “null and void.” That seems to include the 2016 conditional approval for the Turtle Run at Deep Cove project.

The project seeks to transfer the building capacity from several parcels around Deep Cove Creek to allow 11 homes on one lot, not connected to the others, in the most protected land of the Critical Area — the Resource Conservation Area, or RCA.

The RCA rules were written in the 1980s to curtail damage to land 1,000 feet from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and say only one house per 20 acres is allowable in the RCA. The lot in question is 40 acres.

Earlier project denials by the county first cited the 1-per-20 rule; then in 2012, it said the plan to transfer development rights was not allowed in the county’s code.

Then in 2016 the county reversed itself.

It approved Turtle Run’s sketch plan after finding an obscure definition of development “site” in the state’s law governing stormwater regulation. That definition allows a group of parcels under the same ownership to transfer density to another parcel.

That approval was immediately appealed by the West/Rhode Riverkeeper, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development and several individuals. The case is still being heard after 24 Board of Appeals hearings on the matter. Four more hearings are scheduled next month and potentially more into July