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Well plans concern St. James residents

June 03, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Property owners worried that their wells will be affected by a proposal to use three wells to irrigate a planned public 203-acre golf course for a residential development are holding a community meeting Thursday.

The meeting is at 7 p.m. at Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. at 18002 Tilghmanton Road, said farmer Allan Green of Fairplay, who is organizing the meeting. Green's property is contiguous to the development, which is planned for the west side of Md. 65.

He expects 50 to 100 people will attend the meeting, he said.

The golf course will be in the middle of the planned 443-acre St. James Park development, which is to have up to 773 units. The property is 1.7 miles south of Interstate 70 and northeast of the existing St. James development. It is near the state prison complex.

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The project developer said the development's proposed use of the wells will not adversely affect other wells. A hydrogeologic investigation report to that effect was submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment, said Richard deGorter, president of Development Partners of Leesburg, Va. The company manages St. James Park LLC, which owns the property.

But Green said he and others remain skeptical of the company's claim.

St. James Park LLC has filed an application with MDE for a permit to use water from the wells on the northwest side of Md. 65, 1 mile north of the intersection of 65 and Md. 68.

The current application asks that the company be allowed to use an annual average of 79,500 gallons of groundwater per day and 187,200 gallons per day during a month of maximum use, deGorter said.

An earlier application request, submitted in December 2000, asked for an annual average of 118,000 gallons of groundwater per day and 250,000 gallons per day during a month of maximum use, deGorter said.

"That is still an awful lot of water," Green said.

The company lowered its request after deciding to use drought-tolerant grasses, recycle water runoff from the surface, a flexible sprinkler system that enables only selective areas to be irrigated as necessary and making other changes, he said.

As part of a standard process, the state agency will seek comment from the public on the request, MDE spokesman Richard McIntire said. The company has to prove to MDE that using the wells won't "unreasonably" affect other nearby water sources, he said.

St. James LLC has contacted contiguous property owners, but Green is concerned others in the area don't know about the request.

"We are trying to alert people about what could happen," he said.

Green sent a letter to Gov. Parris Glendening opposing the permit request. Copies were sent to members of the Washington County delegation of the Maryland General Assembly.

There is already a a water shortage in Washington County, causing wells and springs to dry up or have severely reduced flows, he said.

"In such light, the subject application has to be seen as an outrageous proposal," Green wrote. Green said he uses wells on his property for personal use as well as for the cows he owns.

On May 8, Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, sent a letter to MDE opposing the request. It is not known what effect the company's well use would have on the underground water table that serves the south county region, said Shank, who plans to attend the meeting.

An MDE representative will also attend the meeting, Green said.

DeGorter said he hopes to start construction in the fall on the first phase of construction, which will include 214 single-family lots and the golf course.

The project, which has been in the works for more than 10 years, has prior Washington County Planning Commission approval to begin construction of the homes and the golf course.

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