(CENTREVILLE, MD)—Environmental groups and citizens filed an appeal today in the Circuit Court for Queen Anne's County to challenge a November decision by the Maryland Board of Public Works to permit the 1,079-unit Four Seasons development on Kent Island.
"The Board approved the tidal wetlands license for this massive project without following proper procedures, and without sufficient information regarding its environmental impacts as required by law," said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). "The Board's own expert testified the project will pollute nearby wetlands with pathogens, excess nutrients, metals, pesticides, and fertilizer."
The appeal was filed by CBF, and the Queen Anne's Conservation Association, Inc. (QACA). Joining the appeal were the Chester River Association, Inc., Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Inc. (MRC), and neighbors of the proposed project: Robert W. Foley, and Hal M. Fisher.
"This is the wrong project in the wrong place and has been vigorously opposed by concerned citizens and local organizations for over 15 years. The wetlands license should never have been issued in the first place," said QACA Executive Director, Jay Falstad. "The Board of Public Works did not lawfully consider the specific requirements regarding stormwater. In addition, they only took very limited public testimony at their hearing. We are hopeful that once the matter gets before the court, the decision will be reversed."
In a 2-1 vote, the Board voted Nov. 18 to grant New Jersey developer K. Hovnanian an environmental permit. The last full public hearing on the project was 2003 when it was first proposed. Significant changes were made since then to the plan, but the Board ruled no new public hearing was required.
"The Board of Public Works has made a mistake in voting to allow the largest development inside of the designated critical area in Maryland's history. Forcing 1,072 units of sprawl development onto 562 acres of marshes, farmland and flood plains between The Chester River and Cox Creek can only have a negative effect on water quality," said Jeffrey H. Hortsman, deputy director of MRC. "BPW's assertion that public meetings and critical area growth allocations over a decade old are still valid today and that urban development is better than agriculture for water quality need to be legally challenged."
A 2013 poll showed that a majority of voters in Kent Island and Queen Anne's County were opposed to Four Seasons. On Kent Island, opponents outnumbered supporters by more than 2-1.
"The Board of Public Work's decision is flawed and at odds with its own expert who made clear that this development will negatively impact adjacent tidal wetlands," said Isabel Junkin Hardesty, Chester Riverkeeper. "The proposed Four Seasons development, situated in a low-lying Critical Area and surrounded by local streams and tidal wetlands, will absolutely negatively impact the health of our local waterways. A development of this size and density does not belong in the Critical Area; we need to protect our remaining buffers and wetlands instead of paving them over and filling them in."