Anne Arundel County: For Developers It’s a Win-Win

Falling," a painting in oil of Deep Cove Creek by Lisa Egeli

We all know building in critical areas isn’t good for the Chesapeake Bay.

Charles Snyder is an Anne Arundel County developer and contributor to County Executive Steve Schuh’s campaigns who tried for years to build homes on a 140-acre restricted critical area on Deep Cove Creek, just north of Deale, Maryland.

The building plan for Turtle Run at Deep Cove Creek wasn’t going anywhere until Steve Schuh and the Office of Law for Anne Arundel County developed a unique interpretation of the law.

The interpretation allowed the developer a path forward through a convoluted plan to “trade” storm water runoff from sites in the critical Turtle Run area to sites owned by the developer to other, non-critical areas. The Office of Law suggested this plan even after the Critical Areas Commission told the developer and the county again and again that the developer could not build on the property.

Why Steve Schuh’s Office of Law suddenly appeared to be operating as Snyder’s own personal attorney is anyone’s guess. Why the Office of Planning and Zoning approved the development and went along with the Office of Law is likewise open to interpretation. The approval of the development was appealed by John Wyss of Wiley Rein and Jonathan Guy of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, who both generously represented the citizens and concerned organizations in South Anne Arundel County.

Schuh, the Office of Law, and Planning and Zoning for the county fought attempts to halt this development every step of the way.

Fortunately, the Critical Areas Commission formally shot down Snyder’s application. Residents and environmentalists can now breathe easy, the development at Turtle Run at Deep Cove Creek is not going to be built.

If Schuh’s Office of Law had prevailed, many in the county worried that it would have set a dangerous precedent, making it easy for developers to trade away non-critical sites to develop critical ones.

Not finished, Schuh has now decided the county will buy the commercially useless property from the developer. The logic of paying tax dollars for this property is difficult to understand. The property is not at risk, the trees are not in danger, there will be no run off danger to the Bay. If the county wants to create a park, perhaps the developer should donate the property. It’s hard to see this purchase as anything but a bailout for a bad business choice. If the sale goes through, the value of the property should be fairly determined at an arm’s length transaction. Not a penny more than fair price for a commercially un-developable property should be paid.

Finally, the purchase sends a message to developers in Anne Arundel County that they can take bets on our critical wetlands, fight it out in court and if they lose, get their bets covered by Steve Schuh.

A lot of money was spent to win the fight over this property. Mr. Wyss and Mr. Guy worked pro bono on this project, donating over a half million dollars in legal fees while attending 25 separate hearings. Schuh knows most communities won’t get the resources to win a fight like this, and perhaps that’s Schuh’s message.

Come to Anne Arundel County where you can pave the bay. For developers, it’s a win-win.

Peter Cane is a professional photographer.

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