Effective citizen opposition to the excessive development running amok in Talbot County is all that can save Talbot County from becoming homogenized, just another place. Think Poplar Hill. Think of LAKESIDE, that poster child of bad development, a battle everyone thinks was lost!
Well, Get Ready! Turns out, we can still fix Lakeside, but citizens must act. Now.
Every Talbot Countian who continues to be offended by the Lakeside project—by the very size and scale of the thing; by the County’s failure, ever, to look at its impact on taxes and schools and traffic and more; by the County’s–and State’s–disregard of our Planning Commission’s determination that Lakeside is NOT consistent with our Comprehensive Plan; by Lakeside’s shredding of Talbot’s rural character; by the way the developer was able to thwart the will of Talbot voters to “Reset Lakeside” in spite of the last election–every offended citizen should pay close attention to this new turn of events.
Notwithstanding that it’s complicated, and a little hard to follow.
A year ago, a lawsuit was brought against the Maryland Department of Environment (“MDE”) to require that MDE rescind its improper approval of Lakeside. In part as a result of certain filings in the case, on May 9th MDE issued to the County a letter (supplementing a directive of April 24th) stating that the County must correct its “sewer servicer priority classification map” for the Trappe area. [Please, do not let your eyes glaze over yet.]
In effect, the MDE letters confirm what The Talbot Integrity Project has been saying for almost two years—in 2020 the developer presented the Lakeside project to the County on the basis of the wrong map in the County’s Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan (“CWSP”), a map that falsely described Lakeside as having been slated (in 2002) for development within 3-5 years. Remember: the bad map, the wrong map, was “Map 24.”
The developer knew all along that the one and only time Lakeside had previously come before the County for approval, back in 2004, that subdivision had been unanimously rejected by the County Council, 5-0. But that salient truth was hidden away. In addition, two sewer construction permits issued improperly by MDE in 2005 and 2006 were served up as part of the misleading justification for approval of R281 in 2020.
When presented with evidence of these problems, the prior County Council shamefully refused to face the facts, ignored the Planning Commission, and facilitated the developer proceeding with the first 120 homes of that billion-dollar project, homes that are under construction today. Disappointingly, MDE too stood passive.
But now, suddenly, MDE is requiring that the County reevaluate and amend the CWSP maps. If that is done properly—relying on the one and only map that actually reflects the sewer classifications of parcels the Planning Commission has certified as consistent with the Comp Plan, “Map 23”–then we have the opportunity to fix Lakeside, to require that it be brought back for proper oversight by the County each step going forward.
If the County and MDE really follow through with the proper remapping, numerous errors should be corrected and, more importantly, the false basis for Lakeside’s 2020 approval will be clearly evident. While we cannot undo what’s done, at least Talbot County can fix the situation going forward, requiring proper review for any new phase of this flawed project.
Working with other civic organizations and knowledgeable individuals intimately familiar with the history of Lakeside and the intricacies of land use approvals, our community—the citizenry– will momentarily bring forward draft legislation that will make the best of a bad situation at Lakeside….a solution, if the Council responds to its constituency.
The response of elected officials–whether at Lakeside or Poplar Hill or the next over-reaching development idea–will inevitably depend on citizen engagement, the manner and extent that you, your friends and neighbors let your voices be heard.
Stay tuned for the “FIX LAKESIDE” action plan, to be announced shortly.
The Talbot Integrity Project