Mount Misery is a long-forgotten piece of local Civil War history. In 1861, Union troops built Fort Grey on Carpenter’s Hill in Severna Park. Fort Grey became known as Mount Misery during the war and was a Union fortification protecting troops moving from Annapolis to Washington. When the war ended, as trees replaced the fort’s earthworks, the military significance of Mount Misery faded into history.
Now, 160 years later, a developer is attempting to build two large multi-story homes on the steepest section on Mount Misery where the fort was located, in the designated critical area of the Severn River. To build these homes, the developer has requested a variance (or modification) to the county codes relating to building on steep slopes in the critical area. This variance was granted by the county hearing officer despite the promise of the current county administration to reduce variances, especially in the critical areas of our rivers.
This variance approval presents an extremely serious problem for the residents of Round Bay who live downhill from these proposed houses because the slopes on Mount Misery are extraordinarily steep. A profile of the builder’s site plan shows a 51% slope on the Severn River side and a 33% slope on the Magothy side of the hill. The builder will have to reduce the slope down to 20% to build the driveway. To do this, he will have to disturb more than 50% of the project site and cut away "half" the mountain side by removing 77 dump truck loads of the hillside.
Round Bay residents are concerned that removing that much hillside will destabilize the hill, causing mudslides and flooding, and cause severe environmental damage to both the Severn and Magothy rivers.
In July 2020, the Anne Arundel County administrative hearing officer granted the variance to build a driveway on a “slope greater than 15%” when, in fact, the slope was more than double the limit. Round Bay residents downhill from the building site filed an appeal to this variance, hoping to voice objections to the extreme grading and subsequent flooding and mudslide problems that would result from building on the hilltop. Due to a COVID-related technicality, their appeal was dismissed and the residents were not permitted to even submit written objections.
Building codes relating to steep slopes in the critical area were established to protect the rivers, and as the health of both the Magothy and Severn continue to decline, it is imperative that the county adhere to the protections that are afforded in the critical area codes. Mount Misery raises a number of concerns relating to the county approval process.
The Magothy River Association strongly objects to builders being allowed to bypass any of the critical area codes, especially when the voices of the residents who are directly impacted are denied a chance to object and when the potential damage to both county citizens and the health of two rivers is at stake.
Paul Spadaro, President
Magothy River Association
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