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Ladd Addresses Critical Area Bill in Column

In his monthly newsletter post, Broadneck and Severna Park's County Councilman Dick Ladd discusses issues of importance to the community.

The following is from the January edition of a monthly column written by Anne Arundel County Councilman Dick Ladd (R-5th District), a resident of the Broadneck peninsula.

As January 2013 struggles to its feet after peering over the fiscal cliff, the County and State move back into several important legislative considerations.  While the major attention grabber for the County will be the mid-January court consideration of County Executive Leopold’s indictments, the County Council will be working early this year on three significant pieces of legislation:   the County’s implementation of the State Critical Area Commission regulations, the Storm Water Management bill, and a County retiree and employee health care bill. 

 The public hearing on the Critical Area bill (93-12) will be held on January 7, 2013, so my focus in this month’s column will be on this bill.

 The Critical Area bill focuses on the management of future development and redevelopment of existing property.  This bill applies to a large majority of Severna Park and Broadneck residents who live in the Critical Area defined as being within 1,000 feet of tidal waters and tidal wetlands.  Within this Critical Area, special attention is given to Buffer Areas defined as the first 100 feet of waterfront property. 

The Bill is very prescriptive of what development activity can and cannot be done on waterfront and on critical area property.  The Bill is very prescriptive of various mitigation -  buffer forestation actions or “in-lieu of fees” required to offset further development or redevelopment on critical area property.  These offsetting requirements exist for critical area property even if the property is not waterfront property but is located across the street from waterfront property (within 1,000 feet of tidal waters and/or tidal wetlands).

Reading between the lines is needed to see what most of us can do in the realm of maintaining and stewarding our existing homes because of the prescriptive and proscriptive development focus.  For the great majority of us, our interest is on what we can do to maintain and sustain our existing property.

My summary is that critical area property owners may weed, trim, mow or otherwise maintain and clean their property (but not clear their property).  More extensive maintenance work (to include the removal of potentially dangerous trees and growth) may be performed by licensed contractors pursuant to their general licenses and permits without the homeowners’ submission of a management plan, simplified management plan, simplified buffer management plan, or other plan for approval by the County Planning Office.

An approved plan or County concurrence is not required for the voluntary planting of trees, shrubs or a garden that does not involve the removal of existing, viable trees, shrubs or unviable trees that directly stabilize a shoreline and embankment.

Areas of up to 5,000 square feet of land may be “disturbed” without approval or a grading permit for maintenance purposes.  For a critical area waterfront lot, obtaining a Simplified Buffer Management Plan is suggested but not required for the following:  establishing a 3-foot wide access path to a private pier or shoreline; removing invasive or noxious vegetation; filling to maintain an existing lawn; managing storm damage including the removal of fallen trees; repairing or replacing a septic system in an existing lawn; and cutting a tree that may fall and cause damage or may cause or increase shoreline erosion.

Going beyond maintenance to further “lot development”, one must carefully note the new requirement that the addition of any new “impervious surface” or man-made ground coverage in the critical area requires mitigation or payment of an “in-lieu of fee” at the rate of $1.50 per square foot of newly covered land or replanting of “up to” twice the disturbed or newly-covered area.  There are new mitigation requirements for clearing of trees in the critical area for any purpose – but not for the removal of one tree for safety reasons.

Finally, one must also note that the fines for violation of these regulations will increase to a maximum of $10,000 (up from $5,000) and at the extreme, a rate of $10,000 per day.

To view a copy of this bill, please visit http://www.aacounty.org/CountyCouncil/Resources/2012/93-12.pdf.  If you have any questions or comments regarding the bill, please feel free to contact me at 410-222-1401.

Happy New Year to All! 

To contact Councilman Ladd, call 410-222-1401 or email dladd@aacounty.org.

Read more columns by Ladd:

  • Ladd Offers Information About Critical Area Law (December)
  • Councilman Ladd Highlights October's Council Progress (November)
  • Ladd Against Limiting County Executive's Veto Power (October)
  • Ladd Reviews Charter Amendments on Nov. Ballot (September)
  • Councilman Ladd: Schools Benefiting from Budget Actions (August)
  • Councilman Ladd Outlines Local Budget Impacts (July)
  • Ladd: Council Will Address Bylaws This Month (June)

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