Glebe Heights/Loch Haven Development
The public development meeting concerning a subdivision located in Glebe Heights/Loch Haven was held at the Edgewater Community Library on Monday, 30 December. This meeting satisfies county requirements to allow the residents that live close to the building site to speak about the project. Only the residents that live in close proximity to the building site receive letters about development meetings. This was NOT a county meeting nor was it a Neighbors of the Mayo Peninsula meeting. The Neighbors of the Mayo Peninsula try to intersect these meeting notices and let residents know where and when they are mainly due to the fact that not everyone reads these notices or gets them and, this being the holiday season, they are easy to overlook. There were close to 250 residents in attendance. The library meeting room had a holding capacity of 133 and the line stretched outside and down the sidewalk. Folks were gracious enough to wait patiently and add their names and information to the meeting sign-in sheets as they were passed through the line.
The parcel of land that was the subject of the meeting is in the Glebe Heights/Loch Haven area and is currently ~45 acres. This number was reduced from 56 acres. It will include 13 homes on the dog park side of the road which is the east side and 29 homes on the west side of the street. This forest is a part of a “greenway” which stretches over to the SERC center off of Muddy Creek Road. A “greenway” is a tract of forest that is preserved for wildlife and to be used for parks and trails. The property is owned by Jim Glascock and other investors. We are not sure how many other investors there are. Mr. Glascock mentioned he was a co-owner, but then also referred to “investors”. The property has been held for 30 years and hasn’t been touch due to several moratoriums on the Mayo Peninsula. An attendee at the meeting questioned Mr. Glascock about why only half of the taxes have been paid on the property throughout the years. Mr. Glascock responded that it was someone else’s error and not his.
Plans for this project have been submitted to the county 3 other times with the last set of plans coming back with 21 pages of noncompliance issues. Mr. Glascock defended these noncompliance issues as miscommunications with the past county planning and zoning officer. This will be the 4th submittal of plans with two modifications. The first of the modifications is the removal of 8 specimen trees and the second modification is work to be done within the 100 foot buffer. This modification will taper shoulders rather than add curbs. When asked if this modification is environment versus safety, Mr. Glascock replied “Yes” and would need a modification either way.
A resident asked Mr. Glascock if the aquifer could account for all of these new homes and Mr. Glascock replied that he didn’t know.
The removal of the forest would have an adverse effect on the wildlife. It was noted that there is a 60% drop in bird migration due to deforestation. Migratory birds use the Chesapeake Bay area to winter. A resident who is also an environmental scientist talked about “habitat squeeze”. Wildlife doesn’t simply hop to over to another tract of land. As their habitat grows smaller, they eventually squeeze in and eventually die out. Runoff also pollutes the Bay and forests act as a buffer of protection against stormwater. A Forest Interior Dwelling Species (FIDS) study was not conducted and is not required unless in a critical area. Under new laws, FIDS studies are required, but this property is grandfathered under current laws. It was noted at the meeting that a portion of the property is in critical area.
Questions about schools were asked. Currently, local feeder schools are all opened for enrollment with the exception of South River High School. Mr. Glascock informed the attendees that as of May 2019, South River High School is currently opened. This has yet to be confirmed.
Emergency services was brought into question. Residents expressed frustration that when accidents happen on the Peninsula, traffic can be backed up for hours. Adding more homes is merely putting a heavier demand on a heavily burdened fire department with already compromised emergency response times. The lots for the homes to be built are ~10,000 sq ft which is smaller than surrounding existing homes which sit on lots ~15,000 to 20,000 sq ft. Mr. Glascock appealed to the attendees that they were trying to “squeeze” in homes to conserve forest. Residents relayed accounts of local homes that have caught fire and were concerned with houses so close together there would be greater chance that if one home caught on fire, then the fire could easily spread to neighboring homes that were so close in proximity.
Forests hold back stormwater, but also protect the water from nitrogen. The aforementioned environmental scientist stated that with the depletion of the forest in question, that it would cost the county ~$528,000 per year to mitigate the nitrogen from the tree loss. As mentioned, the parcel of forest is 45 acres. Mr. Glascock stated that only 23.5 acres will be cleared for homes. The rest of the parcel, 21.5 acres, will remain forest. A resident asked how much of that 21.5 acres will be dedicated to this project. Mr. Glascock said all of it. The resident responded that a large portion of that forest was dedicated to the Turnbull Estates. Turnbull Estates is also in Loch Haven and came under many environmental discrepancies from the state after the land had been cleared. Mr. Glascock responded that 47% of that forest was dedicated to Turnbull Estates. The resident responded that the forest was then not all dedicated to this current project. Mr. Glascock was not clear in his response to that question.
Traffic was a major concern of the residents. Mr. Glascock reported that as of 3-4 months ago, the traffic study that he had conducted reported the intersection of 214 and Loch Haven as “satisfactory”. According to the traffic study done by the state of Maryland, that intersection, along with several others on the Peninsula were given failing grades. It was unclear, but Mr. Glascock explained that the lane changes at 214 and Muddy Creek improved the intersection. I may be wrong in this explanation. Mr. Glascock was very hard to follow in his reasoning. Mr. Glascock did tell the attendees that Glebe Heights Dr will be widening to allow for the increase in traffic.
Another big concern was stormwater management. The residents were concerned that with the removal of the forest, the flooding would increase. Mr. Glascock informed them that the county requires them to plan for stormwater management. There will be 3 stormwater management facilities in the subdivision that will have a top level filtration and then sink into the ground to recharge. Residents said that the water table on the Peninsula is very high and that there will not be much, if any at all, absorption and will result in extensive flooding during heavy rain events. Mr. Glascock also stated that HOAs will be responsible for maintaining these stormwater management facilities.
It was stated at the meeting that the County Executive can not allow or disallow development. All the county can do is strictly enforce the requirements in regard to developers and builders. As said, this particular development is grandfathered and does not have to meet the current requirements that have become more rigid. Steuart Pittman has also mentioned that he will not allow any environmental modifications.
The Neighbors of the Mayo Peninsula are encouraging everyone to write emails about their concerns to the contacts below:
Steve Kaii-Ziegler, AACo Planning and Zoning Officer
Steuart Pittman, AACo County Executive
Matt Johnston, AACo Environmental Policy Director
Thank you Mayo for your support! Information will be posted as it becomes available. Mr. Glascock has agreed to post the development plans at the library. A post will be made when that happens. Information will also be posted on the Neighbors of the Mayo Peninsula website for our not-so-social-media-saavy friends. If you got this far, then thank you! I apologize for the length!
From County Executive Steuart Pittman's Facebook Page
Last night some 200 residents of the Mayo Peninsula showed up to let Glebe Bay Partnership know that their 42-home development would not be a welcome replacement for the large forest in their county-designated greenway adjacent to the Critical Area by Glebe Bay. Your voices were heard.
As County Executive, I do not have - and should not have - the power to accept or deny land use applications like the one that has been submitted by this developer.
I do, however, have the power to work with our County Council to pass land use legislation, including adequate public facilities and forest conservation laws, and to staff county departments with people who have the expertise to enforce those laws in a manner that will withstand legal challenges by developers.
On the legislative front, I proposed a forest conservation bill that would have applied to this project. It was amended by the County Council, allowing this development and any others that submitted a complete application by December 16, to be exempt from the new provisions.
That grandfathering amendment generated a recent flood of development applications for forested sites throughout the county. I hope that the County Council will review those applications and conclude that now is the time to restore the original grandfathering language to the bill.
On the administrative front, the days of allowing developers to circumvent our environmental laws through modifications have ended. We notified developers of the new approach in May, and will be releasing additional guidelines in the coming days to provide transparency and certainty about land use regulation to developers and communities.
My own view is that development in this county should be directed to places where infrastructure exists already. Our peninsulas are served by single roads that are not designed to handle the traffic they carry today, and adding impervious surface near our waterways reverses the bay restoration progress that we celebrate.
Just a few hundred yards from the Glebe Heights site, Glebe Bay Partners clear-cut 5.9 acres to build Turnbull Estates. That clearing was cited in February 2018 by the Maryland Department of Environment for failure to comply with both Nontidal Wetlands and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting requirements.
Anne Arundel County must do better.