- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The developer of the Swan Point community in Issue has asked the Charles County commissioners for help in expediting approval of its plan to mitigate wildlife habitat cleared as part of further expansion of the neighborhood.
The commissioners asked the developer to come back with a formal proposal at a later meeting.
Last year, the commissioners approved an amendment to Swan Point Development Co.’s buffer management plan for the Villages at Swan Point, allowing it to gradually plant trees replacing destroyed habitat for birds that live in deep forest. The developer previously had been required to grant a permanent conservation easement protecting bird habitat before it sought permits.
But the amendment has stalled before the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission, which has taken issue with the method by which the developer plans to provide public access to the water.
The community sits on a peninsula bordering the Potomac River and Cuckold Creek.
The developer alleges that the commission approved its original plan in June 2008 to provide public access via a proposed marina on Weir Creek and a new hotel on the river. Now the commission is requiring direct access to the water via publicly accessible land, which the developer regards as a taking of private land.
“In essence, the CAC seeks to illegally exact a public park from SPDC,” attorney Charles R. Schaller Jr. wrote in a May letter to Department of Planning and Growth Management Director Peter Aluotto. Schaller represents Swan Point Development Co.
Alluotto said the developer’s hope is that a memorandum of agreement between itself and the county would appease the Critical Area Commission.
“I think it would be in everyone’s interest for the project to move forward,” Aluotto told the commissioners Tuesday.
The developer also is seeking to uncouple the issue of the mitigation plan from that of public access, as the Critical Area Commission appears to be holding up approval of one due to the other.
Deputy County Attorney Elizabeth Theobalds recommended against entering into a memorandum of agreement as requested by the developer, fearing it would create a precedent that would make it difficult to manage large-scale development projects in the future.
Theobalds recommended that the commissioners either pursue another way to show support for the project or outright amend Docket 250, a series of agreements between county government and Swan Point Development Co.
Schaller said the company wanted county support now, but the commissioners only agreed to write a letter expressing support, not enter into any specific agreements.