|The following Letter to the County
Commissioners was published in the Record Observer on July 13, 2001:
To: Mr. George M. O'Donnell, President
There is still time to shape the proposed Four Seasons development in a manner that promotes the welfare of the area's people and of its wildlife.
In the new revision the helicopter pad was not removed as requested by citizen groups. Instead it was moved closer to Macum Creek, which is the home to migrating tundra swans.
I write to ask you to remove the helicopter pad entirely from the site. If another helicopter pad is needed on Kent Island, it should be placed away from the flight path of migrating birds, especially those that are rare and need protection. I attach some photographs of the beautiful tundra swans taken by David Harp for the book Swanfall: Journey of the Tundra Swans by the Eastern Shore's own Tom Horton.
Ideally the Bell site, which surrounds Macum Creek and is adjacent to the planned Cross Island Trail extension is perfect for water-bird viewing park land. There is a small parcel set aside for that purpose now. However, given the exquisite beauty of the site, and the fact that Macum Creek has been a traditional favorite settling point for the swans in their sojourn on the Eastern Shore during the winter months, a greater set-aside needs to be made. This would benefit not only the swans but the many people who would enjoy coming down to the water to watch the swans.
The four 55' high buildings proposed to rim Macum Creek are way too high: they would discourage the swans from coming to Macum Creek to nest. Can't these be scaled down? Or removed entirely? (In my view the developers should not have been allowed to exceed the 45' Queen Anne's County height limit at any place in the development.)
We are now probably nearing the end of the approval process for this project. It is therefore timely to consider what went right and what went wrong.
On the right side the Planning Commission has tried to think and plan long range. Its preference for retirement communities also makes sense since they do not require new school construction. However, the two documents on which the Planning Commission relied for guidance - the "Chester Community Plan" of 1997 and the "Stevensville Community Plan" of 1998 are flawed. Both overlook the obvious fact that Kent Island is just that, an island. This fact has two consequences. First, with one way on the island and one way off, traffic flow is going to be a very difficult problem. (This is why "big box" stores don't belong on the island.) Second, most people want to live as close to the waterfront as possible, if they have the opportunity to do so. Since our beloved shorebirds depend on shoreline buffers for their nests, the waterfront needs to be protected all round the island. In the long run, this will benefit people too, but maintaining a 300' shoreline buffer is difficult given the understandable desire of developers to maximize the number of units on a site.
Here's where the process unravelled in my view. In 1999 James Foor, Planning Commission Chairman, praised the inclusion of 300' shoreline buffers in the initial planning for Four Seasons. "Let's really do it right," he is quoted as saying. (Bay Times for July 14, 1999, enclosed.) However, the Planning Commission buckled: it surrendered to the developers and cut out most of the 300' shoreline buffer. (I visited the Planning Commission office after the reduction was announced. Mr. J. Steven Cohoon told me that the developer needed the reduction to "make the numbers work.")
What went right in the process was that citizens stepped up to the plate. They attended public meetings in huge numbers to protest the development. The "We Say No" movement, and, then the Kent Island Defense League have done magnificent work in trying - with some success - to modify the Four Seasons proposal. The Critical Area Commission hearing and your own hearing early this year provided excellent forums for allowing public discussion.
What we now have is a plan that is better than the original version but needs further improvement. The Bell site needs to be reworked, the traffic pattern for the development needs attention, and, in my view, the principle of the 300' shoreline buffer requirement should be re-established for the entire development. As Mr. Foor said in 1999, this large development will set an example. Residents of Kent Island need to be assured that it is a good example.
The following Letter to the Editor appeared in The Star Democrat on Sunday 7/22/01:
The following letter to the County Commissioners was published in the Bay Times Wednesday, July 25th:
Dear Queen Anne's County Commissioners,
I live in Kent Island Estates, Southern Route 8 in Stevensville. As you are hopefully aware, that means I rely on septic and a well for drinking, cleaning and bathing in my home.
I would like to know when the commissioners will be meeting to discuss improving the living conditions for the people in the county that already live here. I have been reading and have attended many functions regarding new construction and plans to expand the residency of our area (not to mention businesses). Not one of these meetings has discussed the current needs of our residents. I would like to point out that the current residents are the ones who voted for you and are currently paying taxes as well as paying taxes in the past, all of which make this county such a desirable area for newcomers.
Will the addition of 1,350 homes for seniors and 177 homes on Ellendale Farms improve my quality of life? Will I be getting consideration for water in the near future? During a conversation at the Kent Island Days festivities, Commissioner Davis told me it will “take a lot of work” to get public water here, well let’s get started. As I said before, I have seen the commissioners expending energy and doing “a lot of work” for new developments, but not much for those of us who have been here supporting the county over the years. Please let me know when I can begin to see my tax dollars work for me in my home. I will be at those meetings and anxious to hear about new plans for the communities that are ALREADY here and need it.
Growth is necessary, but at what price? Are we prepared to add another layer to this small island that is already in dire need of improvements?