Tier map is­sue re­turns to county coun­cil

Scout­ing the 2A East Re­gion Fi­nal

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CH­ERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— An old is­sue con­cern­ing the county’s fu­ture growth will be amongst the new county coun­cil’s first ac­tions as the de­part­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion clears house of con­cerns.

County Di­rec­tor of Plan­ning and Zon­ing Eric Sennstrom gave the county coun­cil a “heads up” Tues­day that an amend­ment to in­sert the tier map adopted by County Ex­ec­u­tive Tari Moore in De­cem­ber 2012 as

ELKTON

a “place­holder” will now be­come the fi­nal map in­serted into the Ce­cil County Com­pre­hen­sive Plan.

“This ac­tion is needed to meet a state dead­line of Dec. 31, 2016,” Sennstrom ex­plained.

County Man­ager Jim Massey said the pro­posed res­o­lu­tion is sched­uled to be in­tro­duced Dec. 6 as an ex­pe­dited ac­tion on the first agenda of the new county coun­cil. As an ex­pe­dited item, it will re­quire a pub­lic hear­ing and fi­nal vote both on Dec. 20, in or­der to meet the law.

The Ce­cil County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion will hear the amend­ment on Mon­day, Nov. 21.

Just weeks after she as­sumed the po­si­tion of county ex­ec­u­tive in De­cem­ber 2012, Moore ad­min­is­tra­tively sub­mit­ted a “tier map,” or a map de­lin­eat­ing four tiers for fu­ture growth in ac­cor­dance with the Mary­land Sus­tain­able Growth and Agri­cul­tural Preser­va­tion Act

of 2012. The in­tent of that law was to plan where in the state ma­jor sub­di­vi­sions could still be served by sep­tic sys­tems, in or­der to save on in­fra­struc­ture costs and re­duce pol­lu­tion into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

The law quickly proved con­tro­ver­sial, es­pe­cially in ru­ral coun­ties, where res­i­dents de­manded to re­tain land use rights. Over the months, each county worked through its is­sues with the law with the Mary­land Depart­ment of Plan­ning — ex­cept Ce­cil County. Moore’s ad­min- is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to deal with a back­lash of state op­po­si­tion to the orig­i­nal tier map, which es­sen­tially des­ig­nated lit­tle county land for Tier IV, or land per­mis­si­ble for lit­tle to no de­vel­op­ment.

For the last four years, Moore and her staff have met mul­ti­ple times with three dif­fer­ent Mary­land Sec­re­taries of Plan­ning, both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can, of­fer­ing nine dif­fer­ent maps as a com­pro­mise, but never gain­ing the state’s ac­cep­tance. A 2014 remap­ping to de­lin­eate Tier IV land in a piece­meal fash­ion was also dis­missed by the state.

In the spring of this year, how­ever, the Ho­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion re­stored the county’s abil­ity to ap­prove all sub­di­vi­sion plats that the O’Mal­ley ad­min­is­tra­tion had re­voked for ma­jor sub­di­vi­sions in Tiers III and IV. The county orig­i­nally thought it had un­til 2020 to in­cor­po­rate the tier map into the com­pre­hen­sive plan, but state law says they have to abide by the old six-year re­view timetable, or by 2016, that was in ef­fect in 2012 when the maps were first adopted.

“We’re fac­ing an­other dead­line,” Sennstrom said. “This amend­ment will con­tinue to al­low sub­di­vi­sions to be ap­proved and al­low cit­i­zens to make their own land use de­ci­sions.”

“The state has yet to ac­cept the wis­dom of our maps and want us to take a dif­fer­ent path,” he added.

The old law re­quired each county to re­view and adopt a new com­pre­hen­sive plan ev­ery six years, but now that law has changed to ev­ery 10 years, ac­cord­ing to Sennstrom.

“Our main goal has al­ways been to pro­tect per­sonal prop­erty rights,” Moore said in a re­cent in­ter­view.

Sennstrom told the county coun­cil Tues­day that pro­tec­tion of the ex­emp­tion of the county’s one home per 20 acres den­sity in Tier IV is im­por­tant.

“With­out this, they’d lose their abil­ity to ex­er­cise their prop­erty rights,” he said.

The time­line looms with­out a com­pro­mise, prompt­ing the amend­ment now be­ing of­fered.

Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Robert Hodge asked Sennstrom if the ab­sence of pri­or­ity preser­va­tion ar­eas and ru­ral le­gacy ar­eas be­ing de­fined would have any im­pact on fu­ture state fund­ing.

“The Ho­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion has not sup­ported with­hold­ing fund­ing based on the lack of a map,” Sennstrom said.

In gen­eral, the state has said the county’s maps and ar­eas are too piece­meal.

“It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the state can’t ap­prove or deny our map,” Sennstrom said, re­assert­ing a con­tention put forth by his ad­min­is­tra­tion in pre­vi­ous years that the state can only com­ment on a county’s map.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

One of the in­com­ing county coun­cil’s first is­sues will be con­sid­er­ing a land use plan­ning map that is re­quired to be en­tered into the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan, but has yet to be done due to dis­agree­ments at the state level.

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