- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The majority of the Charles County Planning Commission does not want to implement a state law, the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, the septic bill.
The legislature decided that the direct and indirect costs to the taxpayers of scattered residential development are excessive. To control this growth, the septic bill requires the counties to classify the land into four tiers. The law is intended to reduce the amount of scattered, large-lot development on septic systems and thereby control public costs and protect the environment.
Ignoring the law and county staff, the majority of the planning commission voted to adopt a land use map prepared by subdivision developers. The tier map approved by the planning commission creates the opportunity for the creation of thousands of new, one-house-per-three-acre lots.
The Maryland legislature clearly explained the need for enacting the septic bill. The identified reasons included: the projected growth of septic systems will impact drinking water aquifers and groundwater that flows into our streams and the Chesapeake Bay, and will cause a 31 percent increase in the state’s nitrogen load. The wastewater and stormwater nitrogen load from these on-site septic systems is twice that of development using public sewer systems; and failing to control the nitrogen load from on-site septic systems “would force other sources such as wastewater treatment plants, urban stormwater and various agricultural sources to reduce their loads even further, constraining economic growth and placing additional burdens on the agricultural community, and other sources.”
The use of on-site sewage disposal systems has other land-use impacts, such as increasing land consumption outside of growth areas and fragmenting our agricultural and forest lands, and on-site sewage disposal systems can lead to increased public costs for extending sewer service for failing systems providing additional roads, schools and other public services.
The majority of the members of the planning commission do not acknowledge that any of the concerns identified by the legislature exist and have chosen to ignore them. They have ignored the costs of operating more schools and expanding and maintaining more roads, the recent information regarding the questionable adequacy of the aquifers that supply most of our drinking water, the potential costs of providing drinking water from other sources and the multimillion-dollar cost of cleaning up the county’s stormwater discharges.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have recommended additional protection for the Mattawoman Creek, but the planning commission majority decided that they know more about water quality and biology than these experts. Although the record shows that 500,000 acres of farmland were lost to development in Maryland between 1982 and 2007, the planning commission determined that subdividing farms protects and supports agriculture.
The majority of the planning commission decided that they could ignore the law, science, the legislature and future costs. You, the taxpayers of Charles County, will have to pay for their decision.
If you are concerned about the fiscally unsound and environmentally unsustainable consequences of the planning commission action, you must tell the county commissioners to overrule the planning commission’s approval of the tier map prepared by developers and also express your concerns to the Maryland Department of Planning.
Joseph Tieger, Port Tobacco
The writer is a member of the Charles County Planning Commission.