Round Bay residents protest development of historic Mount Misery
By Haley Weisgerber
Seven years ago, when Danielle Dupcak and her family moved to Round Bay, they fell in love with the community for its proximity to water and the fact that each house had a personality. His home on Old County Road is located on a hill called Mount Misery, which served as a fort for Union soldiers during the Civil War.
The Dupcaks bought the lot from a bank after the previous owner lost the property. Then the bank divided the lot into seven subdivisions.
Now Sikora Development LLC and Style Works Design Build want to build two three-story homes for $ 1.6 million on two of the additional lots. Houses threaten much of the hill, while building a driveway on a slope greater than 25 percent.
“You are chatting as neighbors and you realize that development spills over onto each other,” Dupcak said, “whether it is a runoff to a downhill neighbor causing them financial harm. because you know they are facing water issues or just increased traffic noise. , falling trees and pollution of water and wildlife.
The property is also considered to be in the Critical Zone, meaning the land is within 1,000 feet of the tidal waters and wetlands that make up Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. This particular property is less than 1000 feet from the Magothy and Severn rivers. In order to build on this land, the developer had to apply for an amendment to the Critical Areas Act, an amendment which was granted to the dismay of many residents of Round Bay.
In the original waiver filed by the developer’s legal representation in 2020, the developer said the two homes would use a combined driveway to minimize the impact on the hill. The first lot could be 5,663 square feet, which is the size of the footprint, and the developer is using approximately 2,724 square feet. The second lot could be 5,359 square feet and the developer uses approximately 4,560 square feet, most of which is the shared driveway.
“In total, the overall land coverage will be approximately 3,738 square feet below the amount otherwise permitted with less slope disturbance that might otherwise be required,” the letter said. “By using only one shared driveway, land coverage, as well as disturbance to sleep slopes, is minimized. “
Sue Mead, who has lived in Round Bay for over 20 years, was among the residents affected. His house is adjacent to the property where the two houses would stand.
“When they granted it, we were shocked,” Mead said. “It’s a steep slope; you add pavement, an alley; you clear the whole hill. It is a historic site where it is proven to have been used at the start of a civil war.
A group of three to four neighbors, including Dupcak and Mead, appealed the changes. Specifically, they dispute the lot that would include the aisle. They contacted the Magothy River Association and the Chesapeake Legal Alliance for help, and each neighbor paid $ 250 to complete the paperwork. There was only room for one name in the call, so a neighbor used their name.
Right after neighbors submitted the documents, COVID-19 put the case aside. The neighbor who put his name on the call had to change jobs and move because of the pandemic. Thus, the neighbors and the developer met before the board of appeal on August 25, hoping to speak. Even though all the neighbors had paid for the call, the case was dismissed in favor of the developer.
Spadaro believes that the development of this land will cause runoff and flooding problems for neighbors further down the hill and along Old County Road.
“The developer has to come up with another plan,” Spadaro said. “There is no reason to have a driveway or to offer a smaller house, so they don’t have to remove that much mountainside.”
The developer planned to include rain gardens on the property to help with runoff, but according to Spadaro and Mead, it will take a lot more than rain gardens to fix the problem.
“Rain gardens are supposed to overflow,” Mead said. “Then it will spill over onto a busy and windy road. That’s why I have safety issues with that extra driveway and blind spot and bad weather safety issues.
Mead and Dupcak are concerned about the overcrowding of local schools with the addition of these homes and the lack of storm drains along Old County Road.
“Most people have to think we’re against any development and I’m not,” Mead said. “I think there is a compromise here because there are a lot of options.”
As a compromise, Mead proposed to build a smaller house and connect it to a nearby driveway to avoid disturbing the hillside.
Spadaro fears that the history of the Civil War will be erased if the hill is destroyed.
The fort, presumably called Fort Gray, housed 250 soldiers year round and offered spectacular views of the Severn River, Magothy River, and Chesapeake Bay. Spadaro believes Mount Misery played a bigger role in the Civil War than the public knows, and he’s particularly interested in eye protection.
Maryland was considering joining Confederacy, but in an effort not to isolate Washington, DC, troops from the 8th New York Regiment were called in to defend the capital. The view from the fort atop Mount Misery allowed Union soldiers to watch Confederate ships attempting to enter Maryland or Washington DC
The residents of Arnold at the time were not very happy with the arrival of the soldiers. Spadaro said the soldiers were ordered not to buy products from residents because they were suspected of being poisoned. He thinks the neighborhood and Maryland’s opinion of the presence of Union troops may have something to do with the lack of awareness at the fort. The Magothy River Association is currently working on a living history project to highlight the historical relevance of Mount Misery.
“It would have been a great location for a park,” Spadaro said. “It could be water under the bridge, but there is no real reason that part of this property cannot be reserved for the memorial of these Union troops.”
Along with the Magothy River Association and the Chesapeake Legal Alliance, the neighbors will once again challenge the decision of the Appeal Board.
“We will also be aggressively returning to the county, because I think we have a greater opportunity to go to the grading permit, and we think this subdivision will fail,” said Spadaro.
On August 25, this group of neighbors were not allowed to share their concerns, but they are not yet throwing in the towel.
“I guess people just need to try to express themselves and that’s our way of trying to do it a bit,” Dupcak said. “Make some noise and see if anyone wants to listen. We feel like we have a case and we would just like the appeal to continue. “