- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Members of the Calvert County Farm Bureau had the opportunity to ask state delegates, county staff and the county commissioners about issues that will affect their way of life during the current legislative session at a legislative dinner Monday night.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George’s), Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s), House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) and Del. Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert) were in attendance to field questions posed by the bureau members, as were Calvert County Board of County Commissioners’ President Pat Nutter (R), Commissioners’ Vice President Steve Weems (R), Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) and Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R).
The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, also known as the septic bill or Tier Act, was one of the first issues to be brought up.
The question asked of other counties’ status with implementing the act, knowing that some jurisdictions are seeking legal action against the act, and where Calvert County stands in the process.
Director of the Department of Community Planning and Building Chuck Johnston said a third of the counties in the state have already had their tier maps approved by the Maryland Department of Planning, another third are still working on it and the remaining third are “taking their sweet ole time.” He added that Calvert is in that last category and that a joint public hearing with the BOCC and the Calvert County Planning Commission is scheduled for Jan. 29 to hear testimony about the proposed tier maps.
“It’s a bad bill,” Fisher said of PlanMaryland being implemented at the county level. “Someone has to say it the way it is. I love the fact that Calvert County does such a great job preserving land. … And if you’re a farmer, the option of what you do with your land is your option, not the option of the state of Maryland to tell you what you can and can’t do.”
He explained that the septic bill is “unbelievable” because “there is no perfect way to dispose of fluid and waste,” but that research shows a properly functioning septic tank is the “best way” known right now.
“If you can tell, I’m passionate about this issue because I know what they’re doing to you,” Fisher concluded.
“As commissioners,” Shaw said, “we have been doing everything in our power to let [the state] know how this is going to affect you.” She said that the county has met with other counties about the septic bill’s effects, but “these are state laws now, folks. Once the state legislature passes a law, we’re all subject to that law.”
The officials also addressed the status of the county’s transferable development rights program.
Weems told the bureau members that a committee has been formed to look at and revise the TDR program. “We are waiting for their recommendation,” he said.
Slaughenhoupt noted that “there is still a desire” for the program, but there isn’t much of a market out there right now.
Shaw added, the commissioners testified in Annapolis and have spoken with the state about the county’s concerns regarding the county’s TDR program.
Also up for discussion was a proposed pesticide legislation that Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Earl F. “Buddy” Hance said would require farmers to report each year what pesticides they use.
“It’s very time consuming and burdensome for the farmers,” said Calvert County Farm Bureau President Tommy Briscoe. “I hope they don’t pass it.”
Dyson and Briscoe brought up the ruling in a lawsuit against the Hudson family on the Eastern Shore and the Perdue Co. by the Water Keepers Alliance. In December, after almost three years, a federal judge ruled against the environmental group’s lawsuit alleging the Hudsons’ chicken farm violated the Clean Water Act because the group noticed what appeared to be chicken manure in a ditch when flying over the Hudson family farm. The judge ruled that the New York-based environmental group, the Water Keeper Alliance, had not established that waste from chicken houses owned by the Hudsons was entering a drainage ditch that ultimately flows to the Pocomoke River.
“It was a win for the farm community as far as I’m concerned,” Briscoe said.
Fisher said he believes “you’re going to see more of it.” He explained that he thinks environmental groups are just getting started.