Council President Chuck Callahan opened the county council’s January 10 work session by reminding us that our comprehensive plan is being revised. He looks forward to meeting with municipalities, learning of their plans, and working with them – and Trappe is first.
Having received a wastewater treatment permit, Lakeside development is proceeding, but on a smaller scale for now. Spray wastewater to be discharged was reduced from 540,000 gallons to 100,000. We were also advised that phase one will total 505 homes; and since 100,000 gallons serves approximately 400 homes, additional wastewater treatment would be provided in a timely manner.
Regarding the county’s desire that ENR (Enhanced Nutrient Removal) wastewater treatment be provided to Lakeside’s first 120 homes, Trappe’s attorney responded by suggesting this level of treatment would be available for “the first 100,000 gallons.” Gallons? For 120 homes? “No, that’s for approximately 400 homes.” The first 120 homes have “applied for 35,000 gallons (in town). If they exceed that they’ll have to stop until the next plant is ready.”
Talbot County’s Comprehensive Plan requires state of the art wastewater treatment for new construction, and Trappe’s existing plant doesn’t qualify. The council included this requirement in a resolution; but the concept of requiring ENR sewerage for those first 120 homes seems to have been eliminated from Trappe’s vocabulary. And the county may be powerless at this point.
Trappe Town Council Vice President Brian Schmidt reiterated, “Once Lakeside has their plant built and operational, those 120 homes go to their plant.” It will happen eventually. Lakeside’s spray wastewater treatment is scheduled to be completed by April. 2024. Upgrading the town plant could take until 2028, and it may be decommissioned in favor of new facilities at Lakeside.
In order to apply for a wastewater treatment permit from the state, plans must be in compliance with our comprehensive plan and approved by the county. That’s the county’s strength. Once Trappe obtained an MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) permit covering phase one of Lakeside, the county had little recourse concerning this stage of development.
But there’s always round two, and council members’ questions and comments suggest they are ready. The council meeting following this planning session included recognition of worthy projects, the consideration of capital projects, earmarked funding requests, county appointments, and a public comment in support of Reset Lakeside.
It wasn’t presented at this meeting, but Vice President Pete Lesher is considering a resolution to clarify the planning commission’s role in this process. The commission’s approval is required for the council to pass a resolution. But allowing the planning commission to change its decision when new evidence is presented may need to be clearly defined in county code.
One cannot help but recall planning commissioner Lisa Ghezzi’s role in addressing Lakeside concerns. Jim Corson, recently appointed to the commission in a questionable manner of timing, testified at the county circuit court hearing that whatever decision the county made regarding his appointment would be fine. But the court’s finding leaves him in a somewhat awkward position until an appeals process might be completed.
The January 4 planning commission meeting lasted 3½ hours. Several bills were approved for consideration by our council, but a great deal of time was devoted to the proposal of a property owner who downsized his plan for an aquaculture venture. It now consists of a testing tank, a storage unit for approximately two pallets of shells, and driveway access beyond his home. Oysters would be transported in light-duty trucks for processing at remote sites during harvest season.
Neighbors disapprove of introducing such an activity in a residential neighborhood and on such a narrow road. It was also mentioned that while authority over Maryland’s navigable waters is exercised by the state, the county determines what’s done on land outside municipalities. Due to concerns for the possibility of setting precedent, this is headed to closed session for legal advice,
And this account may be neither entirely accurate or complete. We may need special counsel before long, but attempting to track these events can’t help but inspire appreciation of our system of checks and balances and the value of working together in Talbot County.
Videos of meetings: talbotcountymd.gov