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By LIAM FARRELL Staff Writer, The Capital
The tumultuous battle over a Kent Island development is continuing as a state permit denial will be challenged in court.
K. Hovnanian Cos., the developer of the controversial 1,350-unit Four Seasons project, will file an appeal over the Maryland Board of Public Works vote on May 23 to deny a wetlands permit, according to John Zink, an attorney for K. Hovnanian.
The appeal will be filed in the Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County, Mr. Zink said.
The Four Seasons development, which has had a rocky road for the better part of the past decade, reignited grassroots opposition and environmental concerns once it hit the state level in May.
About 370 acres of the Chesapeake Bay's critical area would be taken up by the project, which borders Chester River, Cox Creek and Macum Creek.
Both Gov. Martin O'Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot voted against the wetlands permit to allow the construction of a pile-supported bridge, a stormwater management system with 18 discharges into tidal waters, water and sewer lines, and a community pier. The officials argued Four Seasons was not in the best interests of the state and would harm the fragile Chesapeake Bay environment.
"This is not a canine hurdle exercise. This is part of a legal process,"
Mr. O'Malley said before voting against the permit. "The mission of the state is to preserve those wetlands."
The governor's office remains steadfast that the vote will be sustained in court.
"We are confident that the board's decision is lawful and will be upheld," said Sasha Leonhardt, a spokesman for Mr. O'Malley.
Mr. Zink, and his client, disagree.
During the state hearings, representatives for K. Hovnanian repeatedly said the project meets all current environmental standards. Both Secretary of the Environment Shari T. Wilson and Secretary of Planning Richard Hall - albeit begrudgingly - said the development met state guidelines.
Treasurer Nancy Kopp dissented from the majority because she also believed K. Hovnanian had met the letter of the law.
"(The rules are applied) consistently and equally so we have a system of law and not just ad hoc judgment," Mrs. Kopp said on May 23.
Four Seasons has been approved by the Critical Area Commission, Wetlands Administration, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Zink said.
"We believe the governor and comptroller applied an erroneous scope of review," Mr. Zink said. "In the absence of violating an environmental standard, the permit should have been approved."
Mr. Zink declined to comment on how losing the appeal would change the Four Seasons plans.
The state denial has created a very unusual situation, said Steve Cohoon, the acting director of planning and zoning for Queen Anne's County.
Applications to build infrastructure like stormwater management rarely experience this type of opposition, he said.
"It's not typical," Mr. Cohoon said. "I've never seen this happen before."
Without the permit, K. Hovnanian could have to abandon the project or engineer it to accommodate the permit loss, he said, but the county has not received any definite information from the lawyers representing the builder.
"The issue of how it affects the project is something K. Hovnanian has to evaluate," Mr. Cohoon said.
Published 06/02/07, Copyright © 2007 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Kent Island project developers to appeal denial of permit
Originally published June 2, 2007 , Reporter, Chris Guy , The Sunpaper
Lawyers for a New-Jersey development firm seeking approval of a 1,350-unit waterfront community on Kent Island filed court papers yesterday notifying the state Board of Public Works the firm will appeal a recent ruling that denied a crucial permit for the Four Seasons project.
The one-page petition for judicial review, filed in Queen Anne's County Circuit Court, starts an administrative appeal process in which the state has up to 60 days to respond and the company has 30 days to file documents outlining its complaint, said John H. Zink III, a Towson attorney who represents K. Hovnanian, which has worked for nearly a decade to win regulatory approval.
The board -- Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp -- voted 2-1 on May 23 to deny a permit allowing the firm to build a small bridge, a community pier and a storm water system on a small portion of the sprawling 562-acre farm.
The project is the largest waterfront development proposed since the state adopted shoreline "critical area" restrictions in 1984.
"We believe two members of the board [O'Malley and Franchot] applied the wrong standard for review," said Zink. "When the Maryland Department of the Environment, the wetlands administrator for the board and the Army Corps of Engineers all said we met all the requirements for the permit, the board should have upheld it."
On May 9, the board postponed a vote on the wetlands permit request, then toured the site May 18, before voting two weeks later.
State officials had little to say late yesterday because they had not seen the document
"We are confident that the
board's decision was lawful and will be upheld,"
KIDL Web Guy Asks: Will the QAC Circuit Cout overturn the Governor of the State of Maryland? I don't think so.
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