Anne Arundel County Now Needs to Prevent Future Turtle Runs

ANNAPOLIS—Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), issued this statement following a decision by the Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals to dismiss a case involving a controversial development called Turtle Run at Deep Cove.

"Approval of the Turtle Run project could have harmed water quality and turned the Critical Area law on its head. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has worked tirelessly alongside local residents and organizations to stop this damaging proposal and to defend the law that protects our sensitive shorelines. The Board's decision to dismiss the case affirms that the project cannot move forward.

"Nevertheless, the project has exposed a flaw in the county's Critical Area program. The state Critical Area Commission, which oversees county shoreline development programs, is rightfully requiring a fix. We strongly urge the county to adopt rules that clearly prevent developers from using far-flung lots elsewhere in the county to concentrate development on sensitive lands."

Background:

The Turtle Run proposal is located in a portion of the county's Critical Area known as the Resource Conservation Area (RCA). State law defines the RCA as "nature dominated environments, such as wetlands, surface water, forests, and open space; and resource-based activities, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, or aquaculture."  New development in the RCA is limited to 1 unit per 20 acres. If approved as presented, Turtle Run would have allowed 11 units on one 37-acre parcel, a density five times greater than what the law prescribes. In approving preliminary stages of the plan, Anne Arundel County allowed the developer to move lots from non-adjacent properties elsewhere in the Critical Area to concentrate development on the subject parcel.  The county has no rules in place to govern this practice, instead relying on an expansive definition of project "site" that was not designed to manage development in the Critical Area. Opponents of the project, including CBF, South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development, and the West/Rhode Riverkeeper, appealed that decision. The state Critical Area Commission, which oversees County shoreline development programs, found the county's practice deficient at a vote on February 7th. The Commission has directed the County to adopt updated regulations within 90 days of its formal action. The county Board of Appeals dismissed the case, saying the project was made null and void by the Critical Area Commission's action. Media reports indicate the county is in negotiations with the owner of Turtle Run to buy the property. 

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