Parts of a development planned near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge were blocked in October by the Maryland Critical Area Commission.
The commission, which reviews development plans near the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coastal bays, voted 22-0 to block a growth allocation designation on 313 acres near the refuge. Dorchester County and the city of Cambridge have approved the development, called Blackwater Resort Communities.
As proposed, the development would bring 2,700 homes, plus a golf course and hotel, to what now is mostly farmland south of Cambridge.
The commission’s decision means that the developer, Duane Zentgraf, will not be allowed to build on the land closest to the Little Blackwater River.
Ren Serey, executive director of the commission, said the vote means retail buildings won’t be allowed in the 313 acres designated a critical area. A golf course may still be possible, Serey said, but the developer would have to redesign it and move it at least 300 feet away from the river.
Neighbors who oppose the resort applauded the decision. Flora Knauer, who owns 50 acres south of the proposed development, said she worried that a golf course near the river would worsen flooding problems on her land, where she grows soybeans and corn. “We already have problems with flooding with no heavy rains,” she said.
Separate from the Critical Area Commission vote, there was a sign that Gov. Robert Ehrlich is in talks to preserve the land.
Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell gave no details about negotiations, but he said that after meeting a few months ago with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental group that opposes the development, Ehrlich started working with conservationists.
“The governor believes it’s time to move forward with private preservation groups to protect the health of the Little Blackwater River, the wildlife refuge and the Bay,” Fawell said, although he didn’t say whether that protection means scrapping the development altogether or just the part closest to the river and refuge.
Will Baker, head of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said after the decision that it could prevent the entire resort development. The foundation has argued that allowing the development would harm wildlife and run counter to state planning laws intended to protect fragile habitat.
“We think that this is a victory for science and rule of law,” Baker said.