Com­mis­sion talks arche­o­log­i­cal re­source or­di­nance

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Com­mis­sion­ers heard sup­port and rec­om­men­da­tions from three in­di­vid­u­als re­gard­ing an arche­o­log­i­cal re­source in­ves­ti­ga­tion or­di­nance and sub­se­quent amend­ments dur­ing a public hear­ing Feb. 28.

Prior to tes­ti­mony on County Or­di­nance 16-14, which was in­tro­duced by Com­mis­sioner Mark An­der­son last July, Plan­ning and Zon­ing Di­rec­tor Mike Wis­nosky pro­vided amend­ments rec­om­mended by the county’s Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

The or­di­nance with the amend­ments are avail­able to be voted on dur­ing the com­mis­sion’s March 14 meet­ing.

The pur­pose of the or­di­nance was to “tr y to pro­tect our her­itage but at the same time not to slow the devel­op­ment process” by re­quir­ing de­vel­op­ers seek­ing ap­pli­ca­tion ap­proval for ma­jor site plans, ma­jor sub­di­vi­sions, con­cept plans for so­lar ar­rays, con­cept plans for ma­jor ex­trac­tion per­mits and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion tow­ers to com­plete ba­sic his­toric back­ground of the prop­erty.

A ma­jor site plan, prin­ci­ple plan­ner He­len Spinelli said, is any build­ing that is more than 10,000 square-feet in site dis­tur­bance. She said a ma­jor sub­di­vi­sion is any piece of land that would cre­ate more than seven lots.

Us­ing the Mar yland His­tor­i­cal Trust, Mary­land His­tor­i­cal Trust Li­brary, Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion records, Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places and other re­source, de­vel­op­ers seek­ing such an ap­pli­ca­tion would need to cre­ate a prop­erty re­port for plan­ning staff to re­view. The re­port is to give staff an idea if the po­ten­tial of an arche­o­log­i­cal re­source is on the site, Wis­nowsky said.

If no his­toric im­por­tance is found dur­ing the ini­tial doc­u­men­ta­tion and in­ven­tory, staff will sign off and the de­vel­oper can pro­ceed. If the po­ten­tial for a re­source is found, a phase one in­ves­ti­ga­tion is re­quired.

The plan­ning com­mis­sion rec­om­mended a phase one in­ves­ti­ga­tion would only be re­quired if a “high prob­a­bil­ity” of a re­source was found through the re­search, strik­ing “mod­er­ate prob­a­bil­ity” from the lan­guage.

The Plan­ning Com­mis­sion also rec­om­mended strik­ing C-7 from the or­di­nance, which stated if any unan­tic­i­pated dis­cov­er­ies were made dur­ing soil dis­tur­bance, all work in the area would im­me­di­ately stop and the plan­ning depart­ment be no­ti­fied. Wis­nosky said the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion felt it was “a bit arduous.”

If there is high prob­a­bil­ity of a his­toric find, such as the first Mar yland set­tle­ment found be­fore the cre­ation of Gibson’s Grant years ago sur­mised from land sur­veys, a phase two eval­u­a­tion or phase three treat­ment plan may be re­quired, the or­di­nance states.

A pro­posed amend­ment by the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion adds that “if phase two eval­u­a­tion or phase three treat­ment plan is deemed nec­es­sary, the cost shall be bourn by a source other than the ap­pli­cant or prop­erty owner,” Wis­nosky told the com­mis­sion­ers, and must be com­pleted within 180 days.

Spinelli said though the or­di­nance is “am­bigu­ous” as to who would bear the in­ves­ti­ga­tion costs, the county is not in­tend­ing to make those pay­ments. Spinelli said the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has spo­ken about seek­ing out grants or other fund­ing means to off­set the costs.

Jack Brod­er­ick, pres­i­dent of the Kent Is­land Her­itage So­ci­ety, ap­proved of the con­cept be­hind the or­di­nance as the so­ci­ety “cares about this stuff, about our nearly 400 year her­itage ... and al­most 12,000 year Na­tive Amer­i­can his­tory,” but strongly rec­om­mended it be sent back to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion for more work.

“Well, I gotta tell you, the devil is in the de­tails here, and I’m really afraid that these de­tails that the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has put in and sent as amend­ments to you guys are al­most going to en­sure that we do not pre­serve our his­toric re­sources,” Brod­er­ick said.

Brod­er­ick raised the ques­tion of who would bear the cost of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions as it is not stated in the or­di­nance.

Cit­ing the de­vel­op­ers at Gibson’s Grant in Ch­ester that vol­un­tar­ily brought in a group to ex­ca­vate the land be­cause of the high prob­a­bil­ity of a his­toric find, Brod­er­ick was not op­ti­mistic other groups would be so gen­er­ous.

“I think we can’t af­ford to leave our her­itage up to some­body car­ing about it vol­un­tar­ily,” he said. “The temp­ta­tion’s too great to do oth­er­wise.”

Queen Anne’s County His­to­rian Mary Margaret Rev­ell Good­win also asked the or­di­nance be fur­ther worked on to clar­ify who would pay for the phase stud­ies.

Speak­ing on the county’s his­toric sig­nif­i­cance, Good­win said Queen Anne’s County could be as big as Jamestown or York­town and even­tu­ally could draw more tourists to the area. “We are the third leg of that stool of those who came here and estab­lished the whole new con­ti­nent,” Good­win said.

Jay Fal­stad, speak­ing on be­half of Queen Anne’s Conser va­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, thanked the plan­ning depart­ment for “thought­fully com­ing up with” the or­di­nance, stat­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ports the bill.

Ref­er­enc­ing a con­sul­tant from the Smith­so­nian in­volved in a 2010 ex­ca­va­tion project in Ruths­burg, Fal­stad said the per­son com­mented that be­cause the Eastern Shore is one of the largest un­de­vel­oped ar­eas on the At­lantic Coast in terms of paved area, “there’s still a lot of things that could be found.”

Fal­stad said the cost of the stud­ies should be taken on by the de­vel­oper “as a cost of do­ing busi­ness” as it isn’t “ter­ri­bly ex­pen­sive in the whole scheme of things.” He said do­ing a sur­vey on high prob­a­bil­ity ar­eas is not an un­rea­son­able re­quest.

Though the or­di­nance isn’t per­fect, Fal­stad said, it’s a step in the right di­rec­tion.

“We really want to try to stream­line the process, not to try to make it cum­ber­some,” Wis­nosky said. “But on the other hand pro­tect our arche­o­log­i­cal and his­toric her­itage.”

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Queen Anne’s County His­to­rian Mary Margaret Rev­ell Good­win spoke about the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing the county’s his­tory and asked the com­mis­sion to send Or­di­nance 1614 back to the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion for more work.

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