- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Mill Pond in California is hidden from view from local roads, but now that a new commercial development is moving forward, property owners around the pond are concerned the project will start choking the pond with sediment.
The Hewitt family owns land around Mill Pond. Mike Hewitt got married on the shores of the pond and his father, Lewis “Red” Hewitt, had his ashes spread there. “It’s kind of precious” to the family, he said.
But on the other side of the pond is a 140-acre property called Oak Crest, which fronts Route 235 across from the Wildewood shopping center. Like Wildewood, Oak Crest is a planned-unit development, which operates under its own set of zoning regulations. The owner, Cecil’s Mill, and developer St. John Properties intend to build up to 902,820 square feet of office and commercial space.
Trees have already been cleared from the land, rousing concerns from neighbors at a recent meeting of the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission.
“What’s the future problems that are going to come from that?” said Lorraine Dooley said, as Oak Crest is developed.
Dooley, Hewitt’s sister, invited a compliance specialist from the Maryland Department of the Environment to see Mill Pond on Monday.
The water was clear and not at a very high level because it hasn’t rained much lately.
“The Maryland Department of the Environment is conducting a review to determine whether this work site is in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Because this is an ongoing investigation, it would not be appropriate for the department to comment,” said Jay Apperson, spokesman.
Oak Crest created a forest harvesting plan, and was prohibited from clearing around a wetland that drains to Mill Pond, which is off site. Otherwise, intensive stormwater management tools are not required to harvest timber. Bales of straw are acceptable. The tree stumps are left in the ground and their roots are supposed to keep soil in place.
“We don’t want to lose the pond. We don’t want sediment in the pond,” Dooley said. But on the other hand, “If nothing’s happening, nothing’s happening,” she said.
No building permits have been granted yet for Oak Crest, said Harry Knight, permits coordinator for the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management. The site plan is being finalized and is supposed to go back to the planning commission in January.
Oak Crest has included in its first phase of development three restaurant sites and big-box store, perhaps a Home Depot as shown in marketing materials for the site. A new entrance will have to be built that will share use with Chaney Enterprises.
Oak Crest is going by newer stormwater regulations, but not the newest, said planner Bob Bowles.
The Hewitt family does an annual cleanup every Easter, Mike Hewitt said. Since Oak Crest was timbered, “We starting to grow a lot of vegetation that we never had before. We’ve noticed those inlets, looks like they’re filling in.”
Land records for Clarke’s Mill also refer to the pond as Mill Race and Mill Seat and the 104-acre patent dates back to 1819.
“It’s extraordinary that a pond of that age is still a pond,” Knight said. They usually fill in over time and become meadows, he said.
Dooley said a storm blew the dike of the pond out at some point. After it was repaired, it only took a week for the pond to fill back up.