West and Rhode Riverkeeper

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Turtle Run hearings continue

Turtle Run Development

Summary of Initial Hearings before Board of Appeals

September 7 – 8, 2016

The Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals held hearings on the Turtle Run appeal on September 7 and 8.  The first day was primarily concerned with argument on motions filed by both sides.  The Snyder applicants filed a motion to dismiss all of the appellants for lack of standing. 

SACReD (South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development) and the West Rhode Riverkeeper filed three motions to vacate the County Office of Planning and Zonging’s conditional approval of the Sketch Plan and to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.  The three motions were based upon: 

  1. OPZ’s failure to complete the statutorily required procedures for lot reconfiguration/consolidation under COMAR;
  2. OPZ and the Board of Appeals lack jurisdictional authority to override the MD state statute that limits development in the RCA (Resource Conservation Area) to only 1 house per 20 acres; and
  3. OPZ and the Board lack jurisdictional authority under the County’s existing critical area program to transfer development rights from parcels with non-critical area land onto non-contiguous parcels in the RCA. 

Snyder and the County opposed the motions on grounds that they were not jurisdictional, but raise issues that should be decided by the Board after hearing evidence.  The Board considered the motions to dismiss overnight and decided at the beginning of the next session to deny them.

The second day was devoted primarily to taking evidence regarding standing of the appellants.  Half way through the session, the Board Chairman directed the Board counsel to call the role of listed appellants and to identify those who were present in the hearing room. 

In the Chesapeake Bay Foundation appeal, CBF was present and CBF’s three individual appellants (Lauretta Duke, Beth McGee and Ann Wearmouth) were also present.  According to my notes, the following were present for the SACReD appeal:  SACReD, West Rhode Riverkeeper, Tracy Knight, Natalie Robert, Mike Heffernan, John Wyss, Mike Shay, VK Holzendorf, Dick Worth, and Robert Passemante.  Snyder has conceded that Mr. Passemante has standing.

                 The Board also addressed the issue of who could participate during the hearing in questioning witnesses and arguing points of law.  The Chairman ruled that only attorneys who are members of the Maryland bar can so participate.  Despite the language in the Board’s rules, the Chairman stated that authorized representatives of CBF and West Rhode Riverkeeper (John Wyss) who are not members of the Maryland bar can participate by offering evidence and testifying, but cannot examine witnesses.

                 Evidence was taken on CBF’s standing.  Snyder and the County opposed CBF standing.  However, after hearing initial testimony, one of the Board members (Mr. Devlin) moved that, based on that testimony, he was convinced that CBF had standing.  There was a discussion by the Board members and a vote was taken.  The vote was 5 to 1 in favor of CBF having standing.  The Chairman was the one vote against.  Thus, the 5 members of the Board rejected the efforts by Snyder’s counsel and County counsel to throw out the case on the procedural standing technicality. 

The Board then heard compelling testimony from Lauretta Duke, a local Franklin Manor resident who lives across from the proposed development, regarding her standing and how she will be adversely impacted if 11 houses and 9 paths to the water and 9 piers are built across from her house at Turtle Run.

The Board did not rule on Ms. Duke’s standing, but will consider that issue at the next hearing that is scheduled for October 6.  Unless agreement is reached with Snyder’s counsel, it is likely that the hearing on October 6 will continue to take evidence regarding the standing of the other individuals in the CBF appeal, SACReD, West Rhode Riverkeeper and the other individuals listed on the SACReD appeal who were present in the hearing room when the Chairman called the role on the second day.  Although there has not yet been a formal ruling, it is likely that the Chairman will move to dismiss all of the listed appellants who were not present at the second hearing session.