The Calvert County Planning Commission will consider whether to revoke its site plan approval of a major housing development in the Prince Frederick area after learning that builders reportedly cleared innumerable trees without permission and disturbed sensitive wetlands.
The Planning Commission notified the developers that it has scheduled a May 6 hearing to determine whether or not approval of Prince Frederick Woods "was obtained by fraud, mistake, inadvertence or other irregularity and, if so, whether the aforesaid approvals should be revoked or rescinded."
Among the issues to be explored at the hearing, according to the Planning Commission, are whether "the applicants submitted plans and drawings which understated and misrepresented the extent of wetlands on the site, as well as the location and number of trees" on the property. The panel also wants to explore why the developer apparently failed to follow "a phased and tightly controlled grading plan, consistent with the recommendations of the County Environmental Planner," as required.
"In fact, they graded all phases in one shot," said John Yacovelle, the Planning Commission's attorney.
Calvert County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers both ordered construction work stopped on the development. The county issued its stop-work order to developers of Prince Frederick Woods last month "because of noncompliance with the conditions of the subdivision approval" granted by the Planning Commission, according to a county official.
The developers received permission to build townhouses and single-family homes totaling 185 units on about 76 acres near Routes 4 and 231, according to the county. The land was to be cleared in phases, and plans delineate trees that were not to be removed.
The developers -- Built-Rite Home Developers Inc. of Capitol Heights and Thomas Builders Inc. of Columbia -- have informed the county that the disturbance to the wetlands was unintentional. In a previous interview, T. Kevin Carney, president of Thomas Builders, blamed the error on "a wetlands delineation that . . . became the basis for the entire designed plan." Carney added that the developers would "restore and replant and clean up and make it right."
Damaged were the headwaters of Parkers Creek, according to the American Chestnut Land Trust, a citizens group instrumental in the effort to preserve land in the watershed, which includes a 3,000-acre nature preserve.
The Corps of Engineers sent a letter to Built-Rite in late February notifying the developer that a "field investigation by a representative of this office has disclosed that you are responsible for the unauthorized discharge of fill materials" into areas under the Corps' jurisdiction.