With less than a month before the November election, Talbot County voters face critical choices. The new Talbot County Council will make fundamental decisions in the next year that could forever change the county’s quality of life. Despite a decade of slow growth, Talbot County faces a torrent of development that will destroy the small town, rural quality of life that make it and Easton special. It will also impose enormous demands on schools, services, and infrastructure.
Easton has approved, committed to, or is considering development of over 1340 dwelling units in town alone. One of those developments, at the former waterfowl sanctuary at Poplar Hill on Oxford Road, involves 439 dwelling units: 109 “estate” homes, 135 “villa” townhomes, and 192 apartments in 9 large, 3-story buildings. Over half the dwelling units would be in the Chesapeake Critical Area, which Maryland has designated for special protection because it is closely linked to the water quality of the Bay. Rather than mitigate the impacts of the development in the Critical Area by creating a passive park that highlights the beauty of nature, emphasizes Easton’s conservation heritage, and better protects water quality, the developer will bulldoze the remaining 25 acres flat and plant turf to make way for 3 soccer fields, complete with aluminum stands – generic suburbia.
Easton and Talbot County residents overwhelmingly say they enjoy a wonderful quality of life that should be protected. The developer’s proposal would place all that at risk, doing too much, too fast, all in one place. Although change is inevitable, it can be done in a way that preserves the quality of life in Easton and Talbot County, but only if it is carefully tailored.
Poplar Hill is a special piece of property that deserves special protection because of its proximity to the headwaters of the Tred Avon and its historic links to Easton and Talbot County’s conservation and environmental values. There are no more areas like this within Easton where those values can be preserved as they can be here. There are other, less sensitive, areas where additional playing fields or additional apartments can be located. The Critical Area regulations of both the Town of Easton and Talbot County require the development be designed to minimize adverse impacts on water quality. The current design does not do that.
The Easton Code requires protection of wildlife habitats determined to be of local significance. The Talbot County Code requires that the development maximize protection of wildlife
common to the Chesapeake Bay Region. The current design meets neither of those requirements.
The Easton Comprehensive Plan requires that the development be balanced and controlled as to timing, location, appearance and impact upon surrounding properties as well as the Town as a whole. The Talbot County Code requires that the development be ordered, efficient, or productive. This development fails both tests. Instead, the proposed design will have a dramatic adverse impact on the surrounding properties and the scenic Oxford Road corridor. It will seriously add to existing traffic safety problems for residents of Papermill Crossing and Easton Club without a plan to mitigate them. On top of the Lakeside development, it will contribute to a looming wave of fiscal requirements for new schools and other public resources without a plan on how to meet those challenges.
A design that asks as much as this one does from the community, the environment, and the Chesapeake Bay truly must be exceptional in all regards to merit approval. This design could be, but is not now, the equal of what is required.
The Talbot County Council has a critical role in whether this development goes forward as planned. Because Easton has already used up its growth allocation required to develop the Critical Area at Poplar Hill, the developer has asked the County for permission to intensely develop all 66 acres of Critical Area. The members of Council you choose in November will decide whether that request is the best path forward. We believe the candidates who have committed to relooking at the Lakeside development also will give the development at Poplar Hill the careful review it deserves. We recommend votes for Pete Lesher, Michele Dappert, Lynn Mielke, and two of the following: Scott Kane, Phil Jackson, or David Montgomery. Vote like our future depends upon it – it does.
Papermill Crossing Homeowners Association