Tier Maps Do Not Preserve Land
Tier maps are mandated by Maryland law to limit the impact of septic systems on the Chesapeake Bay. However, tier maps do not preserve land as was stated at the Comprehensive Plan Public Hearing and implied by Planning Director Mark Willis on July 30th at the County Commissioner’s meeting.
Tier maps do not contribute to the county’s goal of preserving 40,000 acres of land. Hundreds of seven-lot minor subdivisions could happen in the Tier IV areas shown in green on the map below unless those properties are protected by restricted easement. In addition, Tier III areas shown in yellow on the map could be developed in as many lots as the new zoning ordinance will allow.
The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Protection Act of 2012 was intended to “limit the impacts of large subdivisions, which are served by individual septic systems, on farm and forest land, streams, rivers and Chesapeake and Coastal Bays”. In attempting to comply with the federal Clean Water Act for the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland legislature had come to realize that septic systems were becoming a long-term problem as they leach nitrogen into groundwater.
Hence, the 2012 law required the counties to adopt Tier maps. Tier I areas have access to sewer lines. Tier II areas are planned for sewer. Tier III areas are areas that are “not are not planned for sewerage service and not dominated by agricultural or forest land; and are not planned or zoned by a local jurisdiction for land, agricultural, or resource protection, preservation, or conservation”.
Confusing right? Basically, the law is stating that if the land is not planned for conservation, and is not planned for sewer, it can be Tier III. Calvert’s mapping could be better though. There is even an 800 acre farm in north county that is designated Tier III, which means that it is somehow not dominated by agriculture or forest land.
A tier IV areas are not planned for sewerage service and are areas planned or zoned by a local jurisdiction for land, agricultural, or resource protection, preservation, or conservation, are dominated by agricultural lands, forest lands, or other natural areas; or rural legacy areas, priority preservation areas, or areas subject to covenants, restrictions, conditions, or conservation easements for the benefit of, or held by a state agency. And yet, seven-lot subdivisions are allowed.
We are pleased that the Comprehensive Plan includes the goal of preserving 40,000 acres of prime farm and forestlands and that the Commissioners have said that they will add $2 million to this year’s land preservation budget. But please do not be misled. Tier maps don’t preserve land.