Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 5, 2014

Attorney for county prepares statement on Terrapin Run

CUMBERLAND — Allegany County has issued a statement on its position on the Terrapin Run development prepared by County Attorney Bill Rudd. Rudd said the spirit of various court agreements precludes the county from dropping Terrapin Run from the county’s comprehensive land use plan.

State officials not only don’t like the plan for the housing development, they said recently the county is in no way barred from dropping the development from the plan. It’s a matter that could end up back in court if the county, state and developer can’t resolve the outstanding issues surrounding the controversial development.

“The current comprehensive plan, which is under consideration, in no way amends the proposed use of the property being considered for development by the Terrapin Run developer,” the statement reads. “It is only the state of Maryland that is now seeking an amendment to the comprehensive plan to prohibit the type of development being planned by the developer.” The plan is under consideration by the county planning commission.

Rudd said that if the county would adopt the state’s view, the decision would negate recent agreements signed by all parties. The agreement has been extended twice in an attempt to resolve issues between the developer and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Rudd said.

“Such a change would be inconsistent with the spirit of the settlement negotiated by the parties in 2011, to leave all matters related to the litigation, the Terrapin Run development and the proposed use of the land as status quo as of that time,” Rudd said. State officials say they interpret the agreements differently.

The latest court agreement was signed in March and will expire in October. At that point, litigation could resume.

State officials slammed proposed revisions to the plan in a recent series of comments and letters, mainly because of the inclusion of the Terrapin Run development.

A review of court documents shows no specific wording regarding the inclusion or removal of Terrapin Run from the comprehensive plan. The documents allow the developer, the county and state agencies to maintain certain legal rights should the matter return to court. The county is allied with the developer against the state in the case. The latest amended agreements in the case were filed March 28. An order dismissing the case was issued the same day.

The designation of Terrapin Run as a growth area is inconsistent with the stated goals of the comprehensive plan draft, which said growth should be confined to areas where infrastructure can be supported, said Bill Atkinson, who recently represented the Maryland Department of Planning at a hearing considering the revised plan for 2014. The state agency filed extensive comments on the plan, including an April 8 letter signed by Peter Conrad, its director of local government assistance.

State officials have said, among other comments, that state funding might not be available for any highway improvements needed for the development without a special exception to state law. The state also objected to the county’s projections for growth, supply and demand for new housing units.

The state maintains there will be a need for 2,250 new dwelling units in the county by 2040. The plan proposal presents much higher totals.

The development is planned for eastern Allegany County near Green Ridge State Forest. Plans for the project near Green Ridge State Forest would consist of 920 homes. That’s smaller than the 4,300 units proposed in 2005. The state continues to object to the modified plan.

Michael Carnock, the developer, has said he’d be willing to hear an offer from the state for a purchase of the property. It’s unclear whether there are existing negotiations on the sale of the property. Robert Paye, an attorney for Carnock, has said the community at Terrapin Run was a needed economic development project.

A 2008 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling vindicated the position of the county and the developer, Rudd said in his statement.

Rudd offered a final parting shot against the state at the end of his written statement. It’s a view that’s been reiterated by Allegany County commissioners several times in the past few years on several different issues:

“Once again, it is the state of Maryland Department of Planning which is ignoring local planning efforts, local planning desires, and the spirit of the agreement negotiated among the parties, by seeking an amendment to the proposed comprehensive plan.”

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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