Cumberland Times-News

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February 5, 2013

Terrapin Run controversy remains a concern

CUMBERLAND — A deal to end the longstanding Terrapin Run controversy could be threatened by recent Maryland Department of Planning actions.

The situation is unusual, since the MDP itself signed off on the agreement to end a lawsuit, said Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine.

In principle, what was supposed to happen was that the dismissal agreement would allow details of a sale of the land, probably to the state, to be worked out at a later date. But if the land is designated for conservation before the sale, the developer would get a much lower price for the land.

The agreement was signed more than a year ago and still has about six months before it terminates, Valentine said. The agreement would get the county out of the lawsuit, which Valentine said the county should never have been involved with.

Terrapin Run developer Michael Charnock said he’d consider offers from the state to buy the land on which the development would sit. Initially, the development was planned for 4,300 homes near the Green Ridge State Forest. Terrapin Run was planned to be set on 935 acres in eastern Allegany County by Terrapin Run LLC.

The MDP is not happy with the county’s tier map, which chooses county areas for development and conservation in four different tiers. The tiers vary in whether sewer service and septic systems are required or allowed.

Terrapin Run has been designated as a Tier II subdivision on county planning maps for years, Valentine said. That means the subdivision would not have sewer service, but could be built using wells and septics systems to handle water and waste needs.

The MDP specifically took issue with Terrapin Run’s designation. The MDP is requiring the county to hold a hearing on Terrapin Run’s designation. The MDP said Terrapin Run doesn't qualify as a Tier II subdivision and must be designated for conservation, which would not allow for development.

And there’s part of the problem, said Valentine.

“I can see their (the state’s) point. ... But we went to mediation meetings and we all signed the document,” Valentine said. That agreement dismissed a lawsuit involving the property. Valentine said he thinks the MDP action threatens that agreement and could lead to further lawsuits. if the county goes along and changes the designation, Valentine is concerned the developer could sue the county.

“A change would lessen the value of the property,” Valentine said. He said if it was his land, he’d certainly talk to his lawyer.

Allegany County commissioners signed off on a stipulation to dismiss a case and allow the developers to try to sell off the property.

Allegany County and the developers were fighting against the Maryland Department of the Environment and state planning officials who were denying needed permits for the development, County Attorney William Rudd said at the time.

The case ended up in mediation and the stipulation is a result of that mediation, which involved Rudd, Valentine and other county staff.

The agreement specified a two-year waiting period before the suit could be reinstated.

Allegany County will hold a hearing on the tier map, including Terrapin Run, is scheduled on Feb. 18, at 9 a.m., in Room 100 at the county office complex on Kelly Road.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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