This is to alert Bowie citizens to imminent decisions by the Bowie City Council that could constitute serious threats to the integrity of Whitemarsh Park, to local waterways and to protection of citizens' legal rights in actions by local authorities. Bowie's City Council appears about to give away public park land to allow construction of a town-house subdivision.
The threat comes from a tentatively approved subdivision of 96 town houses ("Bowie Forest") to be constructed on a 12-acre tract located on the south side of Rte. 450, just east of the Exxon station and business and professional facilities on Superior Lane. This development received conditional approval from the city council in May. As a condition for final approval, the council required that the developer present alternative locations for a storm-water management pond.
The developer originally proposed a one-acre storm-water pond to be located on the extreme southwest corner of the 12 acres, directly behind the Bowie Professional Building. A pipe would extend from that pond, some 350 feet along a 20-foot-wide right-of-way within Whitemarsh Park, to empty into an intermittent tributary of Whitemarsh Branch. More recently, the developer presented two alternative locations for ponds, both located within Whitemarsh Park, between the developer's property and that same intermittent tributary. No matter what alternative is used, however, the added storm water would have a major destructive impact on the tributary and on Whitemarsh Branch, in the form of both erosion and pollution.
In addition, hundreds of trees, from saplings to larger ones, would be destroyed in constructing any of the three alternative ponds and their inlet and outlet pipes. Also, constructing the 96 town houses would require the wholesale destruction of vegetation, including countless large tree specimens now protecting the ridge and steep slopes of the 12-acre tract from erosion.
In a poorly advertised meeting at City Hall on Aug. 12, Joe Meinert of the city planning department claimed that the city council needed only to take "administrative action" to give final approval to the site of the storm-water management pond and the subdivision plans. However, constructing a storm-water management pond, or even providing one 20-foot right-of-way for a pipe inside Whitemarsh Park, violates the park's master plan. Thus, an environmental impact study and a public hearing would be called for before a change could be made to the master plan.
The approval by county and city officials can only be described as an irresponsible miscarriage of public trust to protect ecologically critical natural areas, which this 12-acre tract is. The decision should be reversed. BEN BERESKIN PERSIS SUDDETH Bowie