Council President Chuck Callahan made his call last night.
Choosing to ignore the Planning Commission’s decision made last November, Mr. Callahan joined with Messrs. Pack and Divilio to kill the legislation that would have stopped the hookup of 120 or more homes in Lakeside to the existing Trappe plant that in turn discharges into the badly impaired La Trappe Creek until that plant and the effluent were both meeting “ENR” standards (that is, current technology).
If this stands, the Planning Commission, who under Maryland law actually has the final say as to what is and is not consistent with our Comprehensive Plan, has been disempowered. Consistency with our Comp Plan is one of only two areas in which its powers supersede those of the Council—and, for that matter, the Maryland Department of Environment.
This is not right. This cannot stand…and we must act.
I am announcing today the formation of a non-partisan citizens’ organization, The Talbot Integrity Project, dedicated to protecting and promoting the Talbot County Comprehensive Plan and the vision of Talbot County it embodies. The Talbot Integrity Project is an incorporated 501(c)4 non-profit entity and will work to support specific initiatives–and candidates, without regard to party—that work to advance the Comp Plan vision—a rural character and quality of life. That Plan is worthy and sustainable, and completely compatible with economic prosperity of our citizens.
The first order of business is the Lakeside hookup–to do all that’s possible to see that the Planning Commission’s determination, shared by so very many in the community, is sustained. Look at those photos and you know it is an outrage to send sewerage from Lakeside to the existing antiquated Trappe plant and on into La Trappe Creek, all to accommodate a developer’s wishes. We can and will take this matter further, notwithstanding the votes of the three on the Council.
Some people have been talking about litigation for many months, but it ought never be the first approach. And it’s an idea never to be taken lightly, not least because it can be expensive. Yet, there are times…. In coming days, the assessment of options will be finalized…and surely everyone knows this is on the table too.
(Those particularly interested in helping to advance The Talbot Integrity Project are invited to reach out with and email to [email protected]. Obviously, there is a ton to do.)
Meanwhile, as to last night’s Council meeting for those who did not watch: As expected, Mr. Lesher’s resolution to simply rescind R281 in toto (the petitioner’s proposal from last May) was withdrawn in favor of the narrower proposal that simply would have prohibited the hookup of Lakeside to the existing plant until ENR standards are met. The latter proposal—Amendment #1 to R313—is what three Councilmen then promptly defeated.
Instantly upon the death of Amendment #1, Mr. Divilio, with support from Messrs. Pack and Callahan, attempted a motion to immediately send a letter to MDE confirming the County’s position (that is, Lakeside has no restrictions on hooking up to the existing plant). MDE must approve every Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan action before it is final, and so the idea was to get that done posthaste, trying to put the whole Lakeside discussion in the rear-view mirror. Fortunately, Ms. Price refused to approve a letter that had not even been written, and it was decided that the County Attorney would draft a letter in coming days for the Council’s consideration at its March 22nd meeting.
Prior to dealing with rescission of R281 and Amendment #1, Ms. Price introduced a new, somewhat different motion to require wastewater from the first phase of Lakeside to be treated to a high standard. That motion is live, will go to the Planning Commission on April 6th, and back to the Council on April 16th. Why anyone would expect its fate to be any different than that given Amendment #1 last night is beyond me. And the Council obviously intends to have nailed things down with MDE even before that proposal comes back.
It should be reported also that Ms. Price, in the discussion of Amendment #1, made a particularly direct statement of her commitment—not shared by all, obviously—to look out for the interests of Talbot County’s citizens as opposed to protecting the developer.
Final note: Some Fifty-Eight Million Dollars of new capital items were also authorized last night for a variety of wastewater issues, and five parcels of County land were reclassified for immediate priority sewer service.
And proving that this Council is devoid of any sense of irony, at the same meeting in which it did its best to assure Lakeside moves forward, it authorized the County to accept the “GIFT” of title to the failed wastewater treatment plant at the Preserve at Wye Mills—another MDE-approved spray irrigation sewerage plant that never worked properly, is being completely replaced at taxpayer expense, and will hereafter be operated—you guessed it!—by Talbot County! Jeeze.
Dan Watson is the former chair of Bipartisan Coalition For New Council Leadership and has lived in Talbot County for the last twenty-five years.