Governor Ehrlich Announces Land Compromise Between DNR and St. Mary’s County
Preservation of endangered species and school construction issues weighed; resolved
LEONARDTOWN, MD — Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., announced today that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has agreed to a proposal from St. Mary’s County to convey a 24-acre parcel of St. Mary’s River State Park to the St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners for the construction of an elementary school.
In exchange, the County Commissioners will convey a 21-acre tract of land that is known habitat for the toad adjacent to St. Mary’s River Fish Management Area, and an additional 18-acres within the St. Mary’s watershed. The project requires Board of Public Works approval before it can progress further.
The County will have to meet several conditions to preserve the integrity of the natural resources on the property, in particular the Eastern Narrowmouth Toad, a state endangered species that has been spotted on the property.
“I commend St. Mary’s Board of County Commissioners President Thomas F. McKay for working with Department of Natural Resources and developing a solution that addresses both the ongoing growth needs of the county, along with preserving our treasured natural resources,” Governor Ehrlich said.
A new elementary school is required to provide additional capacity in the Lexington Park Development District and surrounding areas based on current enrollment and projections. The additional capacity will relieve the needs at Greenview Knolls, Hollywood, Leonardtown, Lexington Park, Oakville and Piney Point Elementary Schools.
“The resolution of this matter shows that environmental protection and community and economic growth are not mutually exclusive,” Commissioner McKay said. “Going forward, the Commissioners and I will be conducting a comprehensive analysis to assess the future growth of the county, and manage that growth in a balanced manner that accounts for multiple interests: environmental, economic and the community’s needs.”
The conditions of the land exchange included in the deed are:
DNR has assembled an interdisciplinary team to work with the county to ensure compliance with these conditions. The team will include natural heritage ecologists, foresters; restoration ecologists; environmental design experts, engineers; and resources planners and will work with the county throughout the implementation of the project, as well as monitoring the site in the future. Construction is forecast to begin in FY 2006.
- During preliminary site analysis and architectural and engineering design the County shall provide notice to the Department that it will be entering the subject property at least 48 hours in advance of that entry.
- Architectural and engineering design for the facility must provide for the minimization of impervious surfaces. Stormwater control devices shall be engineered and constructed so as to minimize the potential for sediment and nutrient loading into streams, wetlands and existing or constructed stormwater basins. The County shall consult with the Department’s staff relative to environmental design standards and the Department must approve all architectural and engineering plans prior to initiating site work.
- Site clearing and grading within the established Limits of Disturbance will be limited to the period October 1 through April 30. The County shall notify the Department prior to commencing earthwork and such work may be subject to additional conditions depending on weather, and site conditions.
- In the event that the County’s construction activities are found to have killed or otherwise caused direct harm to the Eastern Narrowmouth Toad, the project shall be immediately stopped and the Department contacted so as to evaluate the impacts and determine if the construction can continue or must be terminated altogether.
- The County, at its cost, is required to reforest the residual agricultural field area surrounding the subject area utilizing species, size and numbers of trees and shrubs required by the Department. Maintenance of the reforested area will be provided by the County, at its cost, for a three (3) year period after satisfactory stocking levels are achieved.
- Public access, including school-related educational programs, to Departmental lands other than the subject area is restricted. Permission may be granted by the Department on a case-by-case basis and subject to additional conditions that protect the Eastern Narrowmouth Toad and other sensitive species and habitats. Boardwalks, structures or other activities, deemed to have the potential to impact the adjacent Wetland of Special State Concern, will be prohibited.
- St. Mary’s County Public Schools and the new elementary school administration and staff must demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Department, a long-term commitment to environmentally responsible maintenance on the site. Deliberate effort must be made to maintain a high level of awareness of the sensitivity of the surrounding habitat and perform routine maintenance such as grass mowing, pest control, control of invasive species, etc. in a manner that protects the integrity of sensitive species and its habitat.