Community Issues

Growth (or Septic) Tiers


Background

In 2012, the Maryland legislature passed SB236 (Chapter 149) which requires the counties to designate all their land as being in Tier I, II, III, or IV, which would then be used to limit what type of development is allowed. This is to limit the future use of septic systems. Basically, the Tiers are:

  • Public sewer systems available
  • Public sewer systems, septic systems viewed as interim
  • Septic systems allowed, minor or major subdivision
  • No major subdivisions on septic

Present situation

The county published a proposed map of the Tiers in the Fall of 2012. Then, without any announced call for public input and no public hearings, the county quietly approved a map in December 2012, substantially different from what was proposed. It is sad that they chose to approve this by "administrative" means, rather than "legislative"; the latter would have provided the public awareness and review required by the County Charter. This is one more case in which the current administration has chosen to do things in secret.

Contrast this to our neighbor, Howard County, where the County Council held hearings and passed a bill to establish the tiers only after hearing from many citizens, only to have the County Executive veto the designations, saying they are not strict enough. The Council let the veto stand, so it is back to the drawing table.

The approved Tiers in the Kingsville area can be seen at "Map Resources".

The bill also contained a "grandfathering" provision. Any property which had a "preliminary plan" submitted by October 1, 2012 is granted an exemption from some of the restrictions of this bill, although they must complete the planning process within 4 years. The county has granted such "grandfathering" to 25 properties, including one in the Kingsville area. Click here for a list.

Future

The spoiler in all this wonderful effort to control septic systems and large developments in the rural, agricultural portions of the county is that the bill provides for an exemption. Although the provisions are complicated, and seem to be contradictory in the law, it is believed that the meaning and intention is that, if the county can demonstrate that the total of all land designated as Tier IV would be limited to no more than 1 house per 20 acres by the current zoning and regulations, than there is a blanket exemption county-wide from the prohibitions created by this law. Thus, it would be "business as usual", with no restrictions on development. By excluding all the small lots (already developed) from Tier IV, the county may be "gaming" the system so as to be eligible for the exception. It is unknown whether the county will attempt to get this exception. Time will tell.

We'll see. Stay tuned.

Future revisions

It is unknown how changes will be made to the tiers in the future. It is likely that the process will not be as open and public as the process for CZMP, although changes to the Tiers may have as much impact on allowing development as changes in zoning in CZMP. This is something that all citizens need to watch!



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Updated 7 Feb 2016 by MAP