- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — State environmental regulators have rejected Allegany County’s water and sewer plan for Terrapin Run, a 4,300-unit housing development proposed on rural land bordering the Green Ridge State Forest.

The rejection by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) marks another blow by the O’Malley administration against the project planned by Columbia-based PDC Inc. In May, the state Department of Planning threw its support behind a lawsuit challenging local zoning approval for the development; a decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals is pending.

The high-profile dispute has made the 1,000-acre Terrapin Run development a battleground for proponents of “smart growth,” which seeks to preserve open space by directing development to existing population centers and designated growth zones. Terrapin Run would establish an, active-adult community in a scenic setting 25 miles east of the nearest urban center, Cumberland.

Residents’ drinking water would come from wells; their wastewater would go to septic systems and, eventually, a wastewater treatment plant.

In a Nov. 14 letter to James J. Stakem, president of the Allegany Board of County Commissioners, Virginia F. Kearney, deputy director of the state environmental department’s Water Management Administration, expressed concern about the project’s impact on groundwater availability.

She also objected to the planned discharge of treated wastewater into a small stream called Terrapin Run that empties into Fifteen Mile Creek, one of the state’s highest-quality streams.

The agency demanded that the county and PDC either evaluate options for eliminating or reducing the discharges or explain in writing their social or economic justification for discharging the wastewater.

PDC officials didn’t return telephone calls yesterday.

The county government said Friday that the Court of Appeals’ decision in the zoning case “will ultimately determine whether MDE’s position regarding Terrapin Run is correct.”

But PDC’s attorney, Robert Paye, told the Cumberland Times-News on Friday that the lawsuit wouldn’t necessarily resolve the water dispute, because it deals with planning, not environmental, issues.

The lawsuit concerns how closely a proposed land use must hew to a county’s comprehensive land-use plan. The local Zoning Board of Appeals found the Terrapin Run project “in harmony with” the Allegany County’s comprehensive plan. Opponents contend that the panel should have applied a more rigid standard of whether the land use was “consistent with” the plan.

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