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|Received the following
Letter to the Editor that was sent to the Baltimore Sun in response to
Richard Hug’s (Arnold, MD) letter “Unfair to Cancel Kent Island Project”,
which is found below the response. Sure hope the Sun prints every
word of it!
Letter to Editor Baltimore Sun:
This is in reply to a letter you published from a Mr. Hug in Arnold; CLOSE to Kent Island, but not ON it. Most likely Mr. Hug probably doesn't even traverse the Island on his way to work, or navigate it in doing his daily or weekend errands, and therefore does not have any stake whatever in either the multitude of negative or doubtful positive aspects of this project. What possible motive could be upsetting him to the degree that he would find it necessary to belittle the Island's residents in opposing it?? He doesn't really let on.
He praises Mrs. Kopp for "being right." But isn't it a matter of perspective; "right" from the view and interest of the invasive money-hungry developer, perhaps, but not from the view of the people who have to bear the brunt of the project's outfall.
Playing by the rules?? Who's rules, I might ask? Isn't there still some concern about incorrect maps or plats that haven't been straightened out?? What about the ominous agreement signed by a lame-duck Commission.........what is the explanation of THAT maneuver?? How does building in the critical zone enhance the Bay and its surrounding waters? By what methodology did they achieve passing these milestones? I must admit that I'm not up to par on any of these particular issues, but it's because of this that I ask these questions.
As for 'common sense' I CAN say that it's doesn't seem like common sense to pack 1350, Nay, up to 2700 KI senior citizens if a couple were to occupy each of the new units; and up to 2700 additional vehicles going to and from a single area on a road that has one lane in and one lane out. It's NOT good for ANYONE or ANY citizen on KI, tax base or no tax base, when you figure the drain on emergency services - they're SENIOR citizens, remember - when you consider the extra 2700 vehicles crowding the narrow roads of the Island, ......and OH! I guess the added vehicular pollution is good for both the citizens and the Bay. Getting around the Island is already crowded enough on weekends and holidays or when there is a "Bay Bridge incident" such as that terrible triple-fatal accident about a month ago. Did Mr. Hug spend 5 hours getting home from work to the Island only to find every road being used as a parking lot and detours galore??
Little impact on the schools?? Back a few years, when this debacle began and the Developer/ Commissioners - which we voted out in toto for their abysmal 'stewardship' of our County - held an informational session at the KI High School. The developer wined and dined a multitude of "Friends of Four Seasons" or some other such misnamed group of Grasonville/Queenstown/Centreville/ and perhaps a few Islanders with them; then had them come to the session to extol the virtues of the planned project and announce to the world that they couldn't WAIT to move in to such a paradise! I asked one of these visionaries if he and his friends would sign a document promising NOT to sell their Queen Anne's County home to someone with no school-aged children so that their moving into Valhalla would have a neutral effect on the school system. I'm still waiting for an answer!
Finally, upon what evidence or scientific data is his claim based that "it would not have a significant impact on the Bay?" He gives none, but attempts to switch focus on the protection of the Bay to other issues of wastewater plant and agricultural waste discharges. Well, I finally agree with him on something; these are ADDITIONAL concerns, but do not negate Four Season's effect. Eco-radicals?? what will you do when there is no more or very poor eco-system??
If it's "Radical" to care about where you live, or to be concerned with your environment, or to fight for something you believe in, then I'm glad that George Washington, Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, et al WERE radicals. And by the way, the energy crisis was not "caused" by opposing drilling or nuclear power - both of which I'm in favor of - it is caused by our individual and collective insatiable THIRST for energy, like the plethora of high-powered SUVs we see around. I own two 4-cylinder station wagons; what do YOU drive, Mr. Hug? I carpool to work in DC with three other government officials; how far and with whom do YOU ride to get to work??
It seems like you would LOVE to have the Four Seasons close by and perhaps built in Arnold; you should look into that.
Unfair to cancel Kent Island project (6/10 letters to the editor in the Sunpaper)
We are supposed to be governed by a system of laws, rules and regulations, not by politically motivated edicts put forth by Gov. Martin O'Malley and state Comptroller Peter Franchot.
And indeed, state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp got it right - as she usually does - when she voted for the Kent Island development project at the recent Board of Public Works meeting ("Kent Island project developers to appeal denial of permit," June 2).
In this situation, we have a major national corporation playing by the rules, investing tens of millions over the past decade in a project and having met every environmental standard while gaining the approval of the state Critical Area Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers - only to be denied a wetlands permit by Mr. O'Malley and Mr. Franchot to appease a group of eco-radicals.
These are the same kinds of radicals who have created our energy dilemma by opposing nuclear power, refinery construction and drilling for oil in the Arctic.
Let's all get back to good old common sense.
This project would be good for senior citizens, it would be good for Kent Islanders because of the huge tax base it would create, and it would have little impact on schools because it would be a retirement community.
And, I might add, it would not have a significant impact on the bay, particularly when its impact is compared with the impacts on which we should focus - wastewater plant and agricultural waste discharges.
Richard E. Hug
The writer was campaign finance director for former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
In Reply to The Sun Article
The developers’ PR machine is already at work trying to upset the business community over the Board of Public Works decision against Four Seasons. The story line is that Hovnanian spent years complying with all the laws and regulations and then unexpectedly had the rug pulled out from under them at the very end of the process. The decision is “devastating to business’s trust in government”, says a developer spokesman in the Sunday Baltimore Sun.
This nonsense is probably not even believed by the people who are putting it out. I offer three points, out of the many that could be made.
First of all, Hovnanian calculatedly assumed the risk that they could stuff a huge development in the Critical Area down the throat of Kent Island residents. Hovnanian signed the DRRA for Four Seasons with lame-duck County Commissioners who had been voted out of office for supporting the project, and thereafter they repeatedly used litigation and threats to bully their way forward against fervent opposition from citizens. Those who live by the sword know that at any moment they may die the same way.
Second, Hovnanian had not complied with all the laws and regulations and was not near the end of the development process. At the time the Board of Public Works acted, serious legal objections to regulatory approval of the first phase of the project were still to be presented to the County Board of Zoning Appeals. Litigation challenging the legal authorization for intense development in the Critical Area was still ongoing in Maryland appellate courts. Not having yet been approved to build a single unit, Hovnanian was in reality closer to the beginning of the development process than to its end.
Third, the possibility that a particular project may not be built is part of the business model of a national developer. Developers like Hovnanian can make hundreds of millions in profits on a single large project like Four Seasons. Such out-sized economic returns on the projects that do get built pay for the projects that don’t get built – the same way that profits on approved block-buster medications pay big pharmaceutical firms for all their drugs that don’t make it through the pipeline, or the profits from gushers pay oil companies for all the dry holes. Four Seasons is just one project among many in the Hovnanian portfolio, and other businesses should remember that before getting all weepy about losing their “trust in government”.
For the rest of us, our trust in government was renewed by what happened in Annapolis last Wednesday – elected leaders who couldn’t be overwhelmed and intimidated took an unbiased look at Four Seasons and came to the right, common sense conclusion about it.
Jim Campbell, Queen Anne’s Conservation Association
The state Board of Public Works' unusual decision last week to deny a crucial permit to a large, long-planned waterfront community on Kent Island has developers crying foul and warning that more sprawl could result.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, say the state board's last-minute derailment of the Four Seasons project in Queen Anne's County highlights the need for more stringent controls on development to protect the Chesapeake Bay.
It remained unclear last week what would become of the eight-year-old plan to build 1,350 homes for "active adults" on former farmland near the eastern end of the Bay Bridge. The vast majority of the 562-acre tract lies within a state-regulated "critical area" bordering the bay and its tributaries.
Lawyers and a spokesman for K. Hovnanian, the New Jersey-based developer proposing the Four Seasons, have not returned calls since the 2-1 vote by the state board Wednesday denying the project a permit to disturb a small patch of tidal wetlands and water. The two board members denying the permit were Gov. Martin O'Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot, with Treasurer Nancy Kopp dissenting.
The president of the Queen Anne's County Board of Commissioners predicted that the project would not go forward. The permit that was denied is needed in part for outfall drains to funnel storm water from the site into nearby creeks. Storm water management measures are legally required for any development.
"It's likely they'd have to go back to the drawing board and start over," said Eric S. Wargotz, president of the county board.
John E. Kortecamp, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Maryland, called the state board's vote against the development "devastating" to business' trust in government. He noted that the state secretaries of planning and environment had both told the board the development complies with existing laws.
"When a business, I don't care what the business is, spends years investing and preparing for a project, complies with all the laws and regulations, and [the project] gets tossed out, it's mind-boggling," Kortecamp said.
Chris Rachuba, president of the Baltimore-area homebuilders group, said the project's denial represents a challenge to the state's decade-old Smart Growth law, which aims to encourage development in and around existing communities. The project was in an area designated for growth by the county, and it would have been served by public water and sewer.
With planners projecting that the Eastern Shore's population could grow by 150,000 people in the next 20 or 30 years, Rachuba said, "we need to have a place to put them." He contended that a relatively dense development such as Four Seasons would cause less harm to the bay than spreading all those new residents out on 3- and 4-acre rural lots with wells and septic systems.
The governor attempted to reassure developers that the rules for getting real estate projects approved haven't been thrown out.
O'Malley said there are many suitable places to build across the state that do not pose the environmental risks the Four Seasons development did.
"There are many pieces of land suitable to build 1,350 homes other than on an island of the Eastern Shore," the governor said, adding: "Common sense should have told [the developers] seven years ago what they were told two days ago."
Environmentalists, while hailing what one called a "landmark" decision in favor of protecting the bay, vowed to hold the governor to his remarks Wednesday about tightening the state's environmental and growth-management laws.
"If this proposal taught us one thing, it's that our laws are not strong enough to protect the bay and the environment," said Kim Coble, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She blamed a "piecemeal" review of the project by local and state governments for letting the Four Seasons project get as far as it did.
Of particular concern, she said, is the state's 23-year-old Critical Area law, which is supposed to limit development within 1,000 feet of the bay and its tributaries.
Under the law, counties are allowed to designate some of their undeveloped shoreline for growth, and Queen Anne's officials did that for the Four Seasons project. The local decision was approved several years ago by the state Critical Area Commission.
"Just because you can build in a Critical Area doesn't mean you should," Coble said.
Four Seasons is the second large-scale development proposed for the Eastern Shore to be derailed by a state agency after winning local approval. The Critical Area Commission blocked a 2,700-home golf resort last fall near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, and the state later bought most of the land to preserve it.
Such large projects "are really illuminating the gaps, the inadequacy of our current regulatory scheme," said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland, which advocates compact development.
Schmidt-Perkins, who helped organize a series of growth-planning forums across the state last year, expressed sympathy for developers, but said the public is sending a message that "growth doesn't have to go just anywhere."
David Bliden, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, warned against any move to strip local officials of their traditional control over land use.
"You want the decision-making not only by the people most accountable," he said, "but also by the people who are most familiar, literally, with the landscape."
However, Jay Falstad, spokesman for the Queen Anne's Conservation Association, said only the state's intervention blocked the Four Seasons project. County voters ousted elected officials who had approved the development five years ago, but the new commissioners found their hands tied by an agreement signed by their predecessors with the developer.
"If we want to have a clean, healthy bay, then obviously we're going to have to enact some reforms on where this building is going to go," Falstad said. He urged lawmakers to revive "green fund" legislation that died this year, which would have levied fees on new development in an effort to curb polluted runoff.
Meanwhile, the local political landscape has shifted underneath the Four Seasons project. And if the developer does go back to the drawing board, county officials have already taken steps to pare back the number of homes that can be built there by two-thirds. The county commissioners recently approved a new plan for the area that calls for allowing no more than 400 homes on the land.
My name is Michael Koval and I am a former (2002-2006) Commissioner in Queen Anne’s County. I am a self-employed General Contractor and run a residential construction company. I have been opposed to K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons on Kent Island since its inception and testified against the issuance of wetlands permits and licenses at your hearing on May 9th. I also accompanied the tour of the property on Friday, May 18th. I was sorry you were unable to see all the wetlands areas and shoreline areas, especially the area where the actual Cox Creek bridge would be located. I have a few other points about this project that I would ask you to consider before making your decision.
Since May 9th, I have been looking over Comar 26.24.02.04 (General Tidal Wetlands License), and 26.24.02.05 (General Tidal Wetlands Permit). Section 04.B.(7)does not appear to allow the construction of new bridges and Section 05.B.(1) does not seem to allow sewer lines to pass through wetlands. Allowing a sewer line to be installed through a wetland for new construction may not be appropriate, as that would encourage new growth in environmentally sensitive areas.
I would like to point out a few facts about the surrounding communities, especially in light of comments I heard calling this 560 acre parcel “infill”. Cloverfields is on the Northwest edge of subject property bordering the headwaters of Cox Creek and the Chester River. It is one of the oldest single-family subdivisions in Queen Anne’s County, dating back to the 1950’s, with lots of approximately 1/3 acre and up. It was subdivided decades before any Critical Area Legislation was even thought of. The small community of Castle Marina on the Eastern side of the property is also an area of single-family homes, on lots of about ½ acre, and also subdivided before Critical Areas legislation. The condos at Bayside/Queens Landing (on the Eastern edge fronting the Chester River and Macum Creek) were subdivided in the late 70’s, early 80’s, also before Critical Area Laws went into effect. These condo areas are small in comparison to the proposed condos at Four Seasons. I thought we were supposed to be doing BETTER in our planning for sensitive wetland and tidal areas since the Critical Areas were defined in the mid-1980’s. Four Seasons is definitely NOT better, it is an abomination and much, much worse in sheer size and intensity, than these older, smaller communities. Developer presentations for Four Seasons say its 560-acre site is “in-fill development” and “Smart Growth”. This is a joke. This is not a “redevelopment” area. As you saw, no roads, sewer or water lines exist in the area, all must be built. This is definitely NOT “smart”. And if this huge 560-acre site is “in-fill” then just about any farmland in the state that has contiguous older communities may be called the same.
When the area in question was put into a “Growth Area” in 1997/98 the then-Citizens’ Advisory Committee listened to a presentation by Domain Builders of Montgomery County, who proposed something like 400 homes, a golf course, and a relocated County trail system on this property. While many members of the CAC had serious concerns about the number of houses, traffic, and the effects on wetlands and waterways by that large a subdivision, they never had any clue that once the plan was adopted Domain Builders would become a K. Hovnanian company, the golf course and trails would disappear, and a plan for 1500 housing units plus a commercial shopping center would take its place. They felt bamboozled and betrayed. And the feeling has never left.
There is already a flooding problem into Cloverfields (to the Northwest), and you need to consider downstream flooding to the communities to the South along Cox Creek. The Four Seasons plans call for a significant number of acres of trees to be removed in the Northwest section. This is also a concern to me.
As I said in my testimony on the 9th, there is a reason that Allstate is not writing any new homeowners’ insurance policies on Kent Island. Allstate and State Farm have both said they don’t want to insure properties in Coastal Areas, so why are we building thousands of houses in close proximity to each other in coastal areas? Haven’t we learned?
These eighteen “state-of-the-art” stormwater devices that would be allowed to discharge into State waters are not failsafe, as you saw by the photos I submitted on May 9th of the muddy water flowing and being pumped into Macum Creek from the construction at Gibson’s Grant, just on the other side of the creek from the Four Seasons property.
I urge you to deny permits and licenses to this project which would allow for stormwater outfall in State waters, building roads and bridges in and over wetlands, building a huge 500’ pier on the Chester River (a beautiful and nearly unspoiled State resource) or installing sewer and water lines in or under wetlands or our waterways.
Thank you for your consideration.
Michael S. Koval
Dear Mr. Franchot:
This is about the Four Seasons development issue coming before the Board of Public Works. My wife and I now reside on Kent Island. We moved here eight years ago from Rockville in Montgomery County because we prefer the pace, lower population density and waterside environment in Queen Anne's County. We also have a somewhat personal connection to you because my wife was the art teacher at Takoma Park Elementary School when your daughter Abbe attended there. My wife recalls her discussions with you and Abbe during your visits to TPES and we were very pleased to vote for you last fall.
Personally, I have represented our Kent Island community with Queen Anne's County officials over the last year to launch assessment studies funded by the Clean Water Act via the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to identify watershed restoration opportunities in several of the deteriorated creeks on Kent Island. Unmanaged silt runoff from agricultural land and stormwater runoff from impermeable surfaces in residential and commercial development into the small creeks that flow into the Chesapeake Bay are major contributors to the deterioration of the bay. It is no surprise that the oyster harvest today is only one percent (1 %) of the yield a century ago. Crabbing and fishing have also been impaired compared to decades ago.
We urge the Board of Public Works to halt the Four Seasons development either in its entirety or to scale it back dramatically. It is development like this that has hurt the Bay. As designed, runoff from the Four Seasons road, sidewalk, rooftop, and driveway surfaces will overwhelm Cox and Macum Creeks. Aerial photos of the area show the stark contrast of intense development immediate adjacent to the creeks compared to the wetlands that protect the bay. Don't be distracted or fooled by the large scale map and photomosaic depictions presented by the developer. Look at more detailed photos and plans and you'll see how much this development encroaches on the Bay and the fragile wetlands in the Critical Area. The voters of Queen Anne's County have twice (2002, 2006) voted out of office county commissioners who turned a blind eye to the need to protect our watersheds from intense development.
Frankly, we voted for you last year because we thought that the O'Malley team would do a stronger job in protecting Maryland's environment than did the previous administration. The Four Seasons application is an ideal opportunity for you to send a clear message to developers and to local officials that they need to protect the bay and to employ best management practices (BMP) , or even improve upon BMP, to find a more harmonious way for low density development to co-exist with the Chesapeake Bay.
I know whereof I speak. I grew up on the waterfront in Middle River in the 1950's. We have neighbors on Kent Island who are 4th and 5th generation waterman. We can all attest that he condition of the Bay today is a far cry from where it was as recently as the 1950's.
Please do the right thing.
A project will come before you on Wednesday, May 9, that should be turned down for many reasons. I refer to the K. Hovnanian project on Kent Island known as Four Seasons.
This project would include 1350 homes for well-to-do "55 and overs", including high-rise condos (out of place at best), and single-family homes on narrow (some 40') lots, in Critical Area lands fronting on the Chester River, Macum Creek and Cox Creek. The total size of the property is about 560 acres, of which 373 acres required Growth Allocation from Resource Conservation (1 home/20 acres). I believe this is more Growth Allocation than even the mammoth "Blackwater" project in Dorchester had required. All this on lands that are fragile already, in an area that was cut off by Tropical Storm Isabel when both the Bay Bridge and Kent Narrows bridges were closed. What happens if a real Hurricane hits us?
In 2000 nearly 4000 voters petitioned to bring the project to referendum. The petition was thrown out on a technicality. In 2002 all three incumbent County Commissioners were voted out of office in the Primary Election, only to enter into a legal agreement with the developer (a Developers Rights & Responsibilities Agreement) less than two weeks later, totally ignoring the will of the citizens of Queen Anne's County, in an attempt to tie the hands of the newly elected Board of five Commissioners. Since then the project has been in and out of the Courts for various reasons (it's a legal quagmire), the most recent case because the Critical Area maps were incorrect.
In 2006 the only County Commissioner to survive the General Election (a Democrat) was one of the two who consistently voted against this project; the other, my husband (a Republican), was defeated in the 2006 Primary after a race full of nasty, personal attacks and false allegations by his opponent, a man exposed as a fraud one week before being defeated in the General Election. Four Seasons has left political "bodies" of both parties littered all over Queen Anne's County.
This project will add thousands of cars per day to an already clogged Rt. 50 on Kent Island, the most used road to Ocean City.
Bridges and roadways are proposed to be built on and over floodplains threatening the health of our creeks and shorelines.
Our Emergency Services and Volunteer Fire Departments are already spread thin and adding a possible 2700 "senior" citizens (I'm 55 myself, so I can say that) will spread them even thinner.
I could go on and on about why this project is bad for Kent Island, Queen Anne's County, and the State of Maryland, but I won't. I urge you to vote against this project.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thanks again for taking time from your busy schedule to personally visit the proposed Four Seasons site here on Kent Island. It was nice meeting you sir. I wanted to discuss this issue in more detail, but I got so nervous I just started mixing up words, I could not vocalize what I wanted to say. I was able to blurt out that it would make a great state park or wildlife refuge.
The site, isn't it a beautiful piece of land? The location, bordered by the Chester River, Macum Creek and Cox Creek. Not where one would imagine a 1,350 unit development being built; that would house more people than live in our County Seat of Centreville. I wonder, at the beginning of all this nearly 10 years ago, did anyone ever stop to ask themselves why this property was designated Critical Area in the first place? I don't think our local politicians did. And that is a tragedy.
I will not get into the innuendo except for this... K Hovnanian spent more than 7 million dollars to purchase the property, before there was even one public meeting. No "subject to recorded plat". No approvals of any kind. I suspect just a hand shake from our three good old boy Commissioners who were removed from office. The K. Hovnanian web site in 2000 posted "Four Seasons at Kent Island, coming Summer 2001". They were still in the middle of applying for the various approvals at that time! I have a lot of information that is public knowledge (knowledge that most of the public is not aware of), because I have been the web guy for the Kent Island Defense League (www.SaveKentIsland.org) since it's inception in 2000. The League is for growth, reasonable growth. This is just the wrong project for that tract of land.
As you are aware, the property at the time of the K Hovnanian purchase, was designated Critical Area, and Resource Conservation 20. 1 house per 20 acres. The commissioners/ planning and zoning department changed that to 120 houses on the same 20 acres that used to allow only 1. Yes, 6 houses per acre on a Critical Area. Unbelievable but true, and absurd. As are the 100 foot shoreline buffers.
You are aware the lead attorney for K. Hovnanian on this project (and other developers of Kent Island) is Joe Stevens. But did you know he was the HEAD of Queen Anne's County Planning and Zoning prior to going into private practice representing developers that want to pave Kent Island? It is a fact, many of the changes and legal groundwork for this and other tracts of land occurred while in his county position as Director. He directed the planning and zoning department to accommodate this very kind of tremendous growth, I now wonder maybe even with this particular property in mind. Is what Joe Stevens did illegal or at least unethical? You decide.
I am glad we have elected a Governor who is environmentally friendly, and is a good steward of our Chesapeake Bay. You, Comptroller Franchot, along with Governor O'Malley and Treasurer Kopp, are in a position to help stop this project or at least slow it down to a crawl. Please vote your conscience and protect the Bay, and say No to K. Hovnanian Four Seasons while attending the Board of Public Works meeting on May 23rd. Send a message to other developers who have no regard for the Chesapeake Bay or any other fragile waterways. Send a message to the local politicians who allow themselves to be bullied by developers. And please send K. Hovnanian back to New Jersey.
Very Truly Yours,
Dear Decision Makers,
I have been following the news regarding the important decision put before you regarding overdevelopment in the fragile and already overdeveloped critical areas of Kent Island. I have lived on Kent Island for 15 years, and spent weekends there as a child in the 1950's. I have been active in the resistance to overdevelopment, environmental destruction, and the danger to the people who already live on Kent Island due to flooding caused by impervious surfaces and the failure of ponds built by developers to control run off (this has happened already, and is also a cause of pollution that contaminates the bay), and due to the inadequacy of routes from Kent Island to escape disasters or to obtain emergency services (much less get to work). I have voted in every election to stop the indecency that has characterized the actions of elected officials and appointees who have knowingly and intentionally used their office or appointment to thwart the democratic process by lying to the citizens of Kent Island, ignoring the mandates evidenced by the results of elections, and greasing the pathway of approvals for the Four Seasons project (as well as other ill conceived ventures).
I just want to make one point:
Regarding the environmental impact of farming this land, please understand that this land was not owned by farmers. The family made their money as owners of a string of car dealerships. This was land that they held in speculation. They rented the use of the land to a farmer for the favorable tax breaks. Their poor stewardship of the land should not be used as an excuse, or to argue that the Four Seasons project is somehow good for the Chesapeake Bay.
Thank you for listening.
With all sincerity and with great hope,
Dear Governor O'Malley, Comptroller Franchot, Treasurer Kopp,
My name is Terry Babb. I've been a supporter and volunteer of Kent Island Defense League since its beginning. First, I want to thank you for taking the time to really listen and consider our concerns. I can't begin to tell you how good that feels. I was in the crowd at your site visit on Friday - carrying the sign "Thank you for coming".
As an attachment, and pasted below is a letter I wrote back in March 2001. I just came across it and was startled by how pertinent it is today for the BPW Board.
It was written to our former County Commissioners - the ones who signed the DRRA as "lame-ducks" in retaliation after being voted out in the 2002 primary elections. If they truly thought it was such a good deal for the County, why wouldn't they have signed it BEFORE the election? I hope you will take the time to read this and Vote Against Four Seasons permits.
Letter dated March 15 2001
Queen Anne County Commissioners
I know you’ve already heard everything that can possibly be said about the development pressures facing Kent Island. I hope, however, that you are not merely making a weekly count but are actually reading and considering the many letters you have received from your constituents. Please remember that we are the folks who voted for you, entrusting you with the legal authority and responsibility of representing our interests. Even if you are now thinking to yourself – oh, she’s one of them – I hope you will consider the following.
As individuals who live near and love the Chesapeake Bay, we search and struggle to find ways we can make a difference – such as supporting the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, participating in programs to grow bay grasses or oyster gardening. But you – the 3 of you – have before you the unprecedented opportunity to make such a huge difference! You can play the pivotal role of leading the way of future development in our Chesapeake Bay Watershed. You have the power to draw a line in the sand and say, “I will preserve the Chesapeake Bay – in every decision I make, I will protect this fragile and sensitive estuary.”
Every day we read in the paper about millions and millions of dollars being spent to study the bay, protect the bay, or clean up the bay. Just yesterday I read that Maryland has failed to meet their 2000 clean-up goal. Bill Matuszeski, Director of EPA’s Bay program is quoted “…...he believes sprawl will cancel out any progress”. This is just money down the drain, unless there is the political will behind it. Especially in a county like ours, where the bay and our neighborhood rivers and creeks are such an integral part of what we hold so dear, the political will of the public will resoundingly and overwhelmingly support the candidates who step forward on this issue.
1000 Friends of Maryland is a statewide nonprofit group that works to promote healthy neighborhoods, preserve the agricultural way of life, and encourage environmental stewardship. Four Seasons approached them, made their presentation, and asked for their support. 1000 Friends of Maryland found that this is just the same plan that the developer has been building everywhere and they are now forcing onto this very special site; specifically, it reproduces an upscale New Jersey development, on a Critical Area, in the heart of the Eastern Shore. Please call and meet with, or at least speak to Dru Schmidt-Perkins from 1000 Friends.
Please review again the testimony presented by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. This large development should afford a great deal of flexibility in developing the site in a manner fully consistent with critical area requirements. It represents the largest single acreage of growth allocation ever considered. If they are not able to meet the 300 foot setback and the clustering requirement called for in the site layout criteria of the QAC Critical Area Program, then it should be sent back to the drawing board. If these requirements are not upheld in a parcel of this size, then when could we ever expect this to be enforced?
We must be able to count on you, as our elected officials, to be among those to whom Kent Island is more than just a “marketing tool” – that it is to be cherished and preserved.
Dear Governor O'Malley, Comptroller Franchot, and Treasurer Knopp;
First of all let me applaud and thank you for taking the time to come to our fair Island and view firsthand K Hovnanian's massive proposed development of FOUR SEASONS at KENT ISLAND. I'm only sorry that time didn't allow you to experience the beauty of our exquisite Macum Creek which borders "Phase 1 " of this environmentally invasive and ill conceived project. You all have given us the first glimmer of hope that there are still those in our government who care about the Citizens of Queen Anne's County even though our pleas for help and representation from our former Commissioners seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
We have done everything we could think of...petitions, attending each and every Hearing and voicing our opinions, sending e-mails, handwritten letters, pictures, backing those who promised to help us and voting them into office...you name it, we did it!! Other courageous citizens have hired lawyers and appealed the unfair legal decisions that have been made, at great risk to themselves. Someone, somewhere should be fighting for us in this one-sided battle to save our Island!! And in return we have been used & abused and lied to & ignored by the so called "majority" of our former Commissioners and members of our Planning & Zoning Commission. So, needless to say we welcome and are grateful for your help. The legal staff at the County level does not have the expertise to compete with the entourage of Lawyers who are paid handsomely by Big Builders to deal with problems such as ours. Intimidation goes a LONG way, and if the "Courting Process" doesn't work, the next step is threatening legal suits to whoever stands in the way.
During the "Courting Process" a few elections ago, Hovnanian wined and dined former Commissioners Davis, O'Donnell, and McQueeney and treated them to a weekend at his Four Seasons at Lakehurst, NJ., and from that moment on they did all in their power...and then some, to see that Hovnanian's Four Seasons at Kent Island became a reality, completely ignoring our protests to the contrary. After soundly ousting them in the Primarys, their final act of arrogance and defiance against their constituants was to act on and pass the Developers' Rights and Responsibilities Agreement with K Hovnanian, sadly saddeling our newly elected Commissioners with their first test of courage. Unfortunately, only two of them...Commissioners Koval and Ransom, stood up to the challenge and voted NO to the outrageous DRRA Settlement that has kept all of our Commissioners "Gagged" to this day...even if they said NO, and even our present Commissioners who had nothing to do with it all. Now that's got to be illegal!! I repeat, "Intimidation, or Bullying, goes a long way!"
I think the crowning blow to all of us was when our newly elected President of our Commission, Ben Cassell, and his fellow Commissioner John Cupani reneged on all their campaign promises (we had backed them because of those promises!) voted YES...to the Four Seasons DRRA Settlement, making it a 3 to 2 majority. We had never counted on the late Neidomanski because he had said from the beginning of his campaign that he was OK about the 4 Seasons thing. When he was replaced by Richard Smith the 3 to 2 vote became routine, with Koval & Ransom always voting NO to anything re-lated to Four Seasons. And so, another election passed, and four more Commissioners bit the dust and were replaced...only one of them was the butt of a viscious and calculated smear campaign spear headed by Ben Cassell who ran against him. You guessed it, Mike Koval who had voted NO to everything Hovnanian. And Ben Cassell might have been re-elected, had it not come out that he'd falsified his credentials on his resume, stating he'd received his BA from U. of MD, and Masters and/or PHD from somewhere else...both found to be untrue.
The environmental issues with respect to the Four Seasons project are so obvious and outrageous that I'll go right to the traffic, safety, and well being of those who live on Kent Island and how their life is affected by those who pass through. Travelers from Maine to Florida and Truckers from every state in the union cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge every day, besides the residents of Maryland heading to or from Ocean City or other areas on the Delmarva Peninsula. And ALL that traffic MUST go through our beautiful Kent Island. In that respect I feel that the development goes way beyond the scope of our local jurisdiction and should be protected and nurtured as a State Treasure. We cannot allow Mega-builders from our state or any other to come here and pave our Island with houses and leave us to deal with the consequences of their greed. That's not SMART GROWTH!!
It takes very little to upset the eqilbrium of our normally peaceful Island...something as simple as a minor car breakdown on the Bridge can set off a chain reaction necessitating lane closiers and tow trucks resulting in major backups to areas on either side of the Bay, especially if they occur during the rush hour or Beach weekends. There are also weather related problems such as fog, ice, snow, and strong winds which our area is prone to. Who can ever forget Hurricane Isabel when Islanders were trapped from getting on or off their island due to Bridge closiers. And worst of all and still fresh in all our minds was the tragic accident that happened several weeks ago that took the lives of hree people.
We have suffered through a re-decking process gone terribly wrong and Spring, Summer, and Fall weekend gridlock, plus frequent Bridge accidents...and much has been done to update and improve Route 50, but our local access roads have remained the same except for the dubious addition of the Circle at Caslte Marina Rd. and Rte.18...better known to locals as Suicide Circle or Malfunction Junction. All of those travelers who pass through our area consider our access roads as "their" shortcut, even the Semis during heavy traffic times.
What we DON'T need is 1350 new homes with the possibility of two cars per home!! And to make matters worse, another Circle is to be created for the Monumental Entrances and Exits of Four Seasons on both sides of Castle Marina Rd. and all must go through the already crowded Circle in order to get out. There are already 700 plus homes beyond who often are trapped and can't get out during traffic gridlocks. (Bayside, Castle Marina Homes, and Queens Landing)
The criteria that K Hovnaian is using as his excuse to build his project is that those older developments of Bayside, Queens Landing, Castle Marian Homes, and the much older Cloverfields are already there. WRONG!! These projects were planned long before the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Law came into effect and that is precisely WHY the Critical Area Law was created...so those same mistakes are not repeated!!
You have the power to stop this monstrous and environmentally ill conceived project and we beg of you to say NO on our behalf. You are our last hope for saving our Island.
Thanks for caring,
I live on Kent Island (KI).
I am writing this letter to you to identify my hope that you will Vote
NO on the wetlands permit for the Four Seasons development. It is
the wrong project, in the wrong place, for many
Please consider the existing facts. Approval of this permit means over 1,350 seniors living on the north side of Hwy 50. Many of these seniors will come from the western shore, which will cause unique traffic issues. These people will need western shore health care. I could see an increased need for Maryland State airlifts during life threatening emergencies, like heart attack and stroke. Bay Bridge traffic will increase not only to support their health care; western shore family visits, especially during already high peak bridge traffic times (i.e. Thanksgiving), will increase traffic both on the bridge and on KI. Then there is the issue of church traffic.
Currently every Sunday during
the summer, our island becomes one large parking lot. Chester churches
let out at the same time that returning western shore vacationers hit the
island creating a large bridge backup. Today, without Four Seasons, it
is a traffic nightmare! When you visited and saw the roundabout near
Castle Marina, you may have been unaware that all those church-going seniors
will be cramming that area, on top of those OC people who currently try
to cut through that part of town to beat bridge traffic. Given the
eastbound highway does not have an associated service road, there is already
a westbound traffic issue. This project will worsen that situation,
with no real solution. It is well known, and recently
Over time, if this project is approved, further environmental (Chesapeake Bay) impact will come from mandatory KI road improvements.
In closing, let me inform you that I am a 46 year-old life-long registered Republican. You are the very first Democrat I have ever voted for. We cannot tolerate this environmental impact for economic reasons. Once the land is developed and the increased traffic is here, there is no undoing it.
Please honor your campaign promises regarding protection of Maryland's environment. Please do the type of thing that will validate why I voted for you, and not Governor Bob Ehrlich. Vote NO on the wetlands permit for Four Seasons. Send a strong message to all the developers out there. Tell them - "WE NEED TO SAVE KENT ISLAND TO SAVE THE BAY!"
Feel free to contact me if you want even more reasons.
Dear Governor O'Malley
I encourage you to deny the request by K. Hovnanian for wetlands license 00-0706. There should be no doubt about your authority to do so. Please let me to explain why.
From their statements, the
applicant would have you believe that your job is to rubber-stamp their
application since they have met all the requirements imposed by the Maryland
Department of the Environment (MDE). If it were that simple, then
why is the applicant reluctant to allow our County
The Legislature intended for the highest elected officials of our State to act as the ultimate stewards of this important resource, the tidal wetlands of this State, or else they would have just granted the authority to MDE. In fact, Title 16 states "It is the public policy of the State, taking into account varying ecological, economic, developmental, recreational, and aesthetic values, to preserve the wetlands and prevent their despoliation and destruction." Therefore, you have more to consider than if the applicant has met a set of guidelines issued by MDE.
Since visiting the site, I hope you were impressed with its beauty and fragility. I wish that the previous set of Commissioners had made a site visit many years ago before deciding to designate this as a growth area and pre-mapping growth allocations. Just because there are adjacent high-density developments built before Critical Area laws were enacted, it does not mean that these mistakes should be allowed to continue.
I hope that you will vote to preserve this area of Kent Island and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay from such a massive, environmentally damaging development and deny this application for a wetlands license.
(sent to all 6 email addresses)
What follows below should be enough to say NO to the K. Hovnanian gang and send them packing back to New Jersey.
source: Published May 19, 2007, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
A selected portion of the text. Entire text can be found here.
"The 2003 settlement states in part that the commissioners "agree that they shall not directly or indirectly oppose or interfere with any approvals for the development of Four Seasons in accordance with (a development rules and regulation agreement)."
On May 15, John Zink, an attorney for the developer, sent a letter asking the commissioners to explicitly say they are not against the permit.
"Because there is some question about the County's position on the wetlands permit, we request the County Commissioners comply with the Settlement Agreement and advise the Maryland Board of Public Works, in writing, that the County confirms its position and does not oppose approval of the wetlands permit," the document states.
The letter was simply part of the effort to keep all parties in line with the 2003 agreement, Mr. Stevens said.
"It's our position we were only asking them to do something that's in conformance (with the settlement)," he said.
Mr. O'Malley acknowledged he has never heard of such an agreement, but he declined to elaborate on whether it is appropriate.
Who do Mr. Zink and Mr. Stevens think they are? Must this kind of behavior be tolerated? Maybe K. Hovnanian conducts business like that in New Jersey, but are we going to let them continue to strong arm our local and state politicians? This tactic appears to be a last ditch effort of two desperate men to me. Please say NO to the K. Hovnanian wetlands permit. The 800 pound gorilla needs a reality check of just who is in charge here in Maryland.
This was sent to the Board
of Public Works Tuesday May 22, 2007:
I sent this e-mail to our former Commissioners the week following their infamous decision to say YES to the Four Seasons DRRA Settlement on 11/04/03.
I'm passing it along to you as many of the citizens of Queen Anne's County were as shocked and disappointed as I was. (and still am) I thought that it is as pertinent today as it was then as this was the start of the "Gag Order". I did tape that meeting but can't seem to find it, however, all of our Commissioners' meetings are taped and replayed on QACTV on Thurs. & Fri. evenings for the public to view, so I'm sure that it is available. It was one of those cases where you had to be there to believe it!!
Thanks for listening,
Kit Davis (address
phone at bottom of letter)
Commissioners Cassell, Cupani, Niedomanski, Ransom, and Koval
As a citizen of Queen Anne's County I am outraged and disappointed beyond words that three of our five Commissioners chose to settle with K.Hovnanian rather than continue the fight and appeal Judge Sause's ruling to a higher court. What you have done is tantamount to throwing in the towel at the end of the first half of a football game and choosing to quit while you were behind because you thought the opposing team was stronger and your chances of winning were slim!! SHAME ON YOU!!!
In essence, Commissioners Cassell and Cupani, you have handed over the keys to our priceless Kent Island to K. Hovnanian and his 1350 unit Four Seasons developement...and agreed to pay him a $350,000 rebate to boot!!! As if that wasn't enough, you have further agreed that you will not interfere (directly or indirectly) in anything related to the M.D.E. or the Corps of Engineers, essentially giving the developer carte blanche to do whatever he can get away with without fear of being reported. By signing this one-sided agreement you have not only given away the keys but locked yourself out of any hope of dealing with the consequences of your actions! Boy, you guys drive a hard bargain!!
What hurts most of all in this whole sorry mess is the feeling that I (we all) have been deceived and betrayed by someone we respected and trusted. Commissioner Cassell, YOU were the one who could have (and SHOULD have) made the difference in this "monumental" decision that will affect the citizens of Queen Anne's County...and especially of Kent Island...in all the years to come. YOU, as our President (Coach) are the one who chose to throw in the towel at half time by signing away OUR rights!! You sold us out, Ben, and it will last long past your four years in office, regardless of your statement that "It's not over 'til it's over". What about that saying..."When the going gets tough the tough get going"?
As for you, Commissioner Cupani, I attended the meeting on 11/04/03 and truly hope I mis-understood your statement following the public comment period. In case I missed something in your message to the citizens of Q.A.Co., I taped the re-run on Thurs. night so I could listen more intently and try to figure out what it was you said. What I heard you say was that you KNEW that we'd all be punished because of "this" decision; Knew it would divide the community; Knew it was going to cause controversy among the County Commissioners; Knew groups would splinter and create ill will against themselves and amongst us as County Commissioners...but KNOWING all of that, you went ahead and signed it anyway!! In my humble opinion I find that kind of "independent thinking" very scary coming from someone who was elected to be the voice of his constituents.
Commissioner Cupani, and I quote, "We swallowed the poison pill."
What you did was force the poison pill down your constituents'
throats, and some will get much higher doses than others, depending on
where they live. You and your neighbors in Church Hill will have
no side affects at
There are over seven hundred homes in the communities mentioned above beyond the proposed "monumental" entrances of Four Seasons and their only way in or out is Castle Marina Rd. and the infamous Rte. 18 Circle. (known to many as Malfunction Junction or Suicide Circle) As a homeowner in Queens Landing I have experienced days when I had to turn around at the Cross Island Trail and return home because of impossible backups...and that's before adding 1350 more dwellings to the mix. Within one tenth of a mile from the Circle there's a bank entrance, the Cross Island Trail crossing, and then the entrances and exits on both the left and right of Four Seasons. So on leaving our homes we will be the last of many to reach the circle and must deal with all of the above to do so.
The residents of the three "trapped" areas that I've spoken of are not the only ones forced to confront the Circle, as any Chester resident who works in Annapolis or beyond must face it if they plan to go West, be it to simply go to Kmart or Thompson Creek Mall, unless they choose to go backward in order to go forward by driving back to the Narrows to reach 50 West. Sounds complicated, and yes it is, now...but just you wait!!
The idea that a "connector road" to and through a farm that has yet to be bought is just about the most ridiculous solution I've ever heard of!! Since Four Seasons is a gated community, it sure can't help those 700+ stranded homes off of Castle Marina Rd., or those who choose to travel west from other parts of Chester. Besides that, it's about as likely to happen in our lifetime as another Bay Bridge. So tell me, Commissioner Cupani, do you have an antidote for the poison pill, or are we to just live with it as best we can or die with it, as the case may be?
To end on a happy note, I would like to commend Commissioners Ransom and Koval for having the courage and integrity to stand up for their beliefs and promises to their consituents. You two have restored my faith in our politcal system that there are still those who honor their pledges, be it only two out of five. Congratulations and many thanks!!
I'm writing to you about the Four Seasons Project being proposed for Kent Island in Queen Anne's County.
This is a BAD project and has potential to cause major environmental problems for the fragile waterways
surrounding Kent Island. Beyond the litany of issues
relating to increased Bay Bridge traffic, emergency service response times, sewer capacity, etc, this project could irreparably harm the fragile wetland environment of the Lower Chester River, Eastern Bay and the Chesapeake Bay around Kent Island. For those that don't know about Four Seasons, the impact to the critical areas exceed the allocations of the previously proposed Blackwater site in Dorchester County. Four Season is proposing to place 1,350 homes (many in the critical areas) very close to the waters of the Chester River.
This Wednesday, Four Seasons is making a proposal to the Maryland Board of Public Works. This board has the ability to stop the project. But they need to hear from people who care about the environment and about the many issues relating to such a dramatic amount of new housing within the critical areas. The BPW includes the Governor, the Comptroller and the Treasurer. Please call, write or email them today and tell them that the FOUR SEASONS project on Kent Island is a bad idea. Here are their phone numbers and emails...Please call or email today.
IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY CRITICAL AREA – WHY?
Kent Island is a low-lying, sinking, fragile island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay– not a place for intensive residential development. Yet . . .
Four Seasons on Kent Island, 2 miles from the Bay Bridge, would be the largest conversion of Critical Area lands to intensive development in Maryland history. It requires 373 acres of “growth allocation” – more than Blackwater!
The 554-acre Four Seasons site is nearly surrounded by water – the Chester River, Macum Creek, and Cox Creek. Fully 88% of the Four Seasons site is within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area -- 1000 feet from the Bay shoreline.
Unfortunately, since the Critical Area Law was enacted, over 4,000 housing units have been approved for the often-gridlocked, Bay-impacting Route 50/301 corridor – now, Four Seasons would add 1,438 more.
More than half of the developed land on Kent Island, including substantial parts of Four Seasons, will be underwater in the Storm Surge from a Category 1 Hurricane.
Evacuation of Kent Island has already been impossible in high winds or high water -- such as Isabel in 2003. Four Seasons has only a single point of access to the Route 50/301 corridor.
Traffic in the Route 50/301 corridor is projected to increase 40% in next 20 years.
Four Seasons will add nearly 3,000 cars, and approximately 4 million square feet of impervious surface and bay-damaging runoff to this waterfront site.
Four Seasons, the largest development project in Queen Anne's County, has been vehemently opposed by County voters. In 2000 over 3,800 local residents petitioned the project to referendum (only to be thwarted on a legal technicality). In both the 2002 and 2006 elections, Four Seasons was the big issue, and the voters threw out of office, without regard to party, all the County Commissioners who either supported or failed clearly to oppose the project.
Four Seasons was given a project-protecting development agreement by the belligerent lame- duck 2002 County Commissioners one week after all had been defeated in their primary election.
Four Seasons, an age-restricted community, will attract new non-workforce buyers from all over the Eastern U.S., taxing the State's infrastructure at a time when it needs to accommodate large numbers of new BRAC employees.
Four Seasons is a grossly inappropriate exploitation of its Bayshore site. The project is a rabbit warren of cookie-cutter garage-fronted houses on narrow lots (45 – 60 feet), with 30 identical, urban-scale, 4-story, high-rise condo buildings looming over the Chesapeake Bay shorelines.
The Four Seasons project site is a major nesting place on the Atlantic flyway.
Four Seasons on Kent Island is the wrong project in the wrong place – why must Maryland accept it?
Sent: Friday, May 11, 2007
The Honorable Doug Gansler
RE: May 9 2007 Public
Works Meeting K. Hovnanian Companies, Four Seasons
Dear Mr. Gansler,
Like many voters in the State
of Maryland, my wife and I are
These types of agreements,
between developers and our elected
WHERE DOES IT GO FROM HERE?
The voters of our great State
of Maryland are hoping that you can,
Ron and Suzi Slye Elasik
----- Original Message -----
Please have your office do what it can to force the release of the K. Hovnanian "Gag Order" as soon as possible, to allow our present County Commissioners to testify before the Board of Public Works. The Board cannot make a truly informed decision without their input. Whether they are for or against is not the issue, their testimony deserves to be heard.
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