To comply with the Maryland Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, jurisdictions are supposed to designate where rural lands will be protected from large new neighborhoods using septic systems and where new development will go, using a four-tier system.
By not approving the tier maps, St. Mary’s County can’t approve large subdivisions on 12,600 acres designated for growth, said Sue Veith, environmental planner for the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management.
Those acres are in central St. Mary’s County and are designated for growth, but don’t have immediate access to sewer yet, she said.
St. Mary’s County has until 2016 to adopt the tier maps, said Phil Shire, director of land use and growth management.
Maryland jurisdictions were already able to increase the number of homes in a minor subdivision in rural areas, using septic systems. In St. Mary’s, the number was changed from five homes to seven in a project. Some 70 percent of existing homes in St. Mary’s County use septic systems.
There hasn’t been much development pressure for major subdivisions lately, Shire said, because houses don’t sell as quickly now. “There’s no market, so the developers are afraid to record” lots and start paying property taxes on them, he said later Tuesday.
Neither Calvert nor Charles counties have adopted their tier maps, according to the Maryland Department of Planning. Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) said Charles County has two map versions and suggested that St. Mary’s County watch how Charles moves along in the process. Jarboe said farmers have protested the change there.
In St. Mary’s County, the tier maps would adopt what the local land-use regulations already state, Shire said.
“Our comprehensive plan essentially is what guided our tier maps,” Veith said.
There are approximately 1,250 larger parcels in St. Mary’s rural areas that would be affected by not being able to develop major subdivisions, she said. The rest of the other properties are too small in rural areas, or are already protected from development.
“There isn’t a lot of harm to the rural landowner,” Veith said. There are some 50,656 parcels and lots in St. Mary’s County.
But, Jarboe said, “that’s over a thousand families that lost value on their farms.”
The tier maps do not require neighborhoods to connect to public sewer where it does not exist, planners said — neighborhoods like Country Lakes and Golden Beach. “They’re very happy with what they have and they do not want to be hooked into a sewer system,” said Commissioner Dan Morris (R).
The commissioners did not approve the maps Tuesday, which were generated by local land planners. “At some point in 2016 it has to be done officially,” Shire said later.