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"On Oct. 4, three of the five county commissioners agreed the county should accept a payment of $753,300 from Hovnanian for the sewer allocation for 162 homes in Four Seasons."

As reported in the the Star Democrat:

Sewer allocation approved for Four Seasons
Staff Writer
November 17, 2005

 CENTREVILLE — A sewer allocation of 100,000 gallons per day (gpd) — enough for 400 homes — was approved for the Four Seasons at Kent Island project.

 The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners, in their role as the county Sanitary Commission, voted 3-2 Nov. 8 to approve an allocation of 100,000 gpd for Four Seasons, subject to the terms of the developer’s rights and responsibilities agreement (DRRA) between the county and K. Hovnanian Companies, the project developer. Commissioners Joe Cupani, Richard Smith and Ben Cassell voted yes. Commissioners Mike Koval and Gene Ransom voted no.

 By the same 3-2 vote, the commissioners approved two public works agreements with Hovnanian for Four Seasons: one to build a water tower and one to build 162 homes.

 Four Seasons is an age-restricted community of 1,350 homes, a clubhouse and an assisted living center planned for a property of about 562 acres, north of U.S. Route 50 in the the Stevensville and Chester areas. Joe Stevens, attorney for Hovnanian, said the project has five phases.

 Alan Quimby, county chief sanitary engineer, said capacity for 400 homes in Four Seasons was reserved in the county’s existing Kent Narrows Stevensville Grasonville (KNSG) plant, which has a treatment capacity of 2 million gpd. The county is building a new sewage treatment plant which will have a capacity of 3 million gpd.

 By a 3-2 vote in the fall of 2003, the commissioners approved a settlement agreement with Hovnanian that ended litigation over the DRRA, a contract approved by the previous board of commissioners in 2002. 

 Koval questioned the county’s ability to enforce the terms of DRRA because the corporation developing the project has a different name than the name listed in the DRRA. “I’m concerned with Queen Anne’s County’s enforceability if there is a name change,” he said.

 The whole purpose of the DRRA “is to freeze the rules and regulations in place at the time of entering into the agreement,” said County Attorney Patrick Thompson. He said the county would absolutely have the authority to enforce the DRRA.

 Cupani asked if the county could be sued for $200,000 if the commissioners failed to approve the sewer allocation. Thompson said you could add a couple of zeroes to that figure. 

 “I think a failure to confirm the sewer allocation could potentially subject the county to significant damages,” said Thompson.

 Cassell, who made the motion to approve the sewer allocation, said the commissioners have a “fiduciary responsibility” not to gamble millions of dollars in taxpayer funds.

 “The courts ruled the DRRA is a valid document,” said Cassell. He said the county could face a potential lawsuit of $10 million to $15 million if the sewer allocation for Four Seasons is denied.

 But Ransom said there’s also the risk of a lawsuit if the commissioners “fast track” the Four Seasons development and citizens sue the commissioners. 

 “There are serious procedural flaws,” said Ransom. “... I can’t believe the board gave away more sewer than was asked for by the developer.”

 On Oct. 4, three of the five county commissioners agreed the county should accept a payment of $753,300 from Hovnanian for the sewer allocation for 162 homes in Four Seasons. The fee is $4,650 per dwelling unit. Ransom and Koval said the sanitary commission should have first held a public hearing on the sewer allocation request, but commissioners Smith, Cassell and Cupani followed the advice of Thompson, who said a hearing wasn’t necessary because the allocation is called for in the DRRA.

 Ransom also said Hovnanian should have re-applied for the sewer allocation under the rules of the sanitary commission. If the sanitary commission approves the sewer allocation for a project, construction on the project is supposed to start within three years. Otherwise, the developer or property owner is required to ask for an 18-month extension or re-apply for the sewer allocation.

 The sanitary commission voted 5-0 Nov. 8 to approve a sewer allocation of 5,224 gpd to KRM for two office buildings in the Chesapeake Bay Business Park. One building will be 8,040 square feet and one building will be 21,200 square feet. The allocation fee is $67,389. Ransom said KRM had to re-apply for the sewer allocation because the three-year deadline expired.

 “We made them jump through these hoops that Four Seasons didn’t have to,” said Ransom.

 Chester residents Winn Krozack and Robert Foley also spoke about the Four Seasons project. Foley said most of the 90 homes in the Castle Marina have private wells, and those wells could have less water when the public water system draws more water from an aquifer to supply homes in Four Seasons. Krozack asked why there was no public hearing for the Four Seasons sewer allocation.  (mail to this address goes to all 5 Commissioners)

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