Governor O’Malley signs new Chesapeake Bay Agreement – Includes hard-fought land-use provisions

Governor Martin O’Malley, 2014 chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council, joined the governors of Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania as well as the Washington, D.C. mayor and the U.S. EPA administrator in signing the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement in Annapolis on June 16. The council committed to a new set of goals that will advance restoration and protection of the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround the Chesapeake Bay. The agreement puts forward strategies for increasing the sustainability of the Bay. It also responds to our changing climate and aims to maintain healthy watersheds, conserve land foster stewardship, and improve environmental literacy.

The agreement also includes several hard-fought provisions that address land use issues, essential to ensure our progress is not erased by land development and population growth. Since the 1983 agreement was signed, much of the Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts have been reactive to wasteful land development practices that increased pollution to the Bay. The new agreement is proactive and calls for smart growth to reduce the loss of farms and ensure more people are served by top-of-the-line wastewater treatment plants.

The new Bay Agreement addresses land use change by committing the signatories to four important actions:

  • Agreeing on one method to measure the rate of farmland, forest and wetland loss across the region.
  • Evaluating policy options, incentives and planning tools that could help local governments improve their capacity to address land use change.
  • Developing strategies to support local governments’ and others’ efforts in reducing land use conversion rates by 2025 and beyond.
  • Protecting the healthiest rivers and streams in the Bay watershed through wise land use decisions

See also Governor Martin O’Malley Hosts Chesapeake Executive Council Meeting (Press release, June 16, 2014) and Land Use and the Bay Agreement (Smart Growth Maryland blog, June 17)

Comprehensive Plan Review - Implementation of HB 1141

MDP reviews each submitted comprehensive plan for consistency with Smart Growth goals, other plans created by the jurisdiction, state polices related to growth and its demands, and the requirements of Hose Bill 1141. The 2006 legislative Session produced House Bill 1141 that required, among other things, that local jurisdictions? comprehensive plans include a Water Resources Element (WRE) that identifies drinking water and other water resources and suitability of receiving waters and land areas to meet stormwater management and wastewater treatment and disposal needs that will be adequate for the needs of existing and future development proposed in the land use element of the comprehensive plan. The due date for the inclusion of the WRE is October 1, 2009. The bill allows for local governments to request up to two six month deadline extensions. MDP is the agency responsible for reviewing extension requests. The deadline refers to the date that any plan including a WRE must be submitted to the State Clearinghouse for 60-Day Review prior to the local Planning Commission (or equivalent body) public hearing.

Because of the short amount of time between the establishing of the law and the deadline for inclusion of the WRE in the comprehensive plan, MDP will be reviewing extension letter requests until October 1st. However, because of the many plans MDP needs to review, we ask that deadline extension requests be sent to MDP no later than August 1, 2009 and that they include the following information:

  • The reason the element will not be adopted by the statutory deadline.
  • Your efforts-to-date to fulfill the requirements.
  • Your plan to complete the requirements, including milestones and estimated dates.

Local Planning Assistance

MDP provides assistance to local governments to support or for inclusion in plans. Whether the plan is the comprehensive plan, a water and sewer master plan, a green infrastructure plan, or any other kind of general plan. Several departments in MDP work collectively to provide topic specific data that local governments can use in their plans and to help them establish and support land use decisions. For instance, population projections can inform jurisdictions about how much growth they can expect over a planning horizon and other departments can use that information to produce transportation analysis, water and sewer analysis, or potential necessary school construction. With regard to water resources, MDP can provide land use change and septic tank projections that can help jurisdictions forecast the amount of pollution that would result.

 

Integration of Smart Growth and Restoration Efforts

The effect of land use change on the environment is a topic that is becoming more visible. Smart Growth focuses growth and reduces urban sprawl that has an exponential effect on water quality. MDP attempts to promote water quality protection and restoration through the implementation of Smart Growth Policy and sustainable growth through the coordination of many partners in several important groups.

Critical Area Commission ? Created by the Critical Area Act in 1984, the commission oversees protection of the first 1,000 feet of land adjacent to any tidal water body in Maryland. The Commission's primary responsibilities are to review and approve State projects on State-owned land in the Critical Area, to review and approve State or local agency actions resulting in major development on private lands or lands owned by local jurisdictions, and to review and approve all changes to a jurisdiction's Critical Area Program, including changes to ordinances, regulations, and maps.

Chesapeake Bay Program - The Chesapeake Bay Program is a unique regional partnership that has led and directed the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. The Chesapeake Bay Program partners include the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body; the Environmental Protection Agency, representing the federal government; and participating citizen advisory groups.