At the October 4, 2023, Planning Commission hearing, the Lakeside developer’s attorney was the first person to testify about proposed new maps for Trappe, i.e., Resolution 348. R348 is the County Council’s proposed response to the State’s directive that Talbot County must fix the mistakes it made when it adopted R281, which featured a flawed Sewer Service map for Trappe—the map that was the green light for Lakeside. (The developer is in favor of R348 just as it is, since it changes only the errors outside of his subdivision and doesn’t touch Lakesideat all.)
The attorney offered only a brief comment (at 1:48:50). Referring to what was called “the 2003-2004 history,” he quoted to the Planning Commission a brief passage, three sentences, from a 2006 letter the Maryland Department of Environment (“MDE”) sent to the County Council. In effect, he offered up this reading, from a 17-year-old letter, seemingly as a warning and a signal of strength. When he first brought up the letter, he started with, “As some of you may recall…,” when of course no one in the room knew anything at all about that letter, or its context, or its history.
Like Scripture from the lectern, this reading too had a point. The attorney explained: “I think [the passage] is illustrative of where MDE is on this situation—has been, and may well be in the future.” Or, by implication: a higher authority—MDE—agrees with and has protected the developer’s position in the past; it slapped down the County once (the apparent meaning of the passage) and is likely to do so again if the County doesn’t conform to the developer’s views. He went on to say, “I want to reinforce the notion that the Town and the developer has no objection to working with the County. We’d like to work with the County….if Talbot County can find ways to collaborate and cooperate —not frustrate—then I think there are opportunities for cooperation.”
Why do I tell you this story?
Because it perfectly demonstrates how critical decisions in our County—most directly, those being made by the Planning Commission—are even today being influenced and manipulatedby a single-source telling of history.
Orwell got it right: “Who controls the past controls the future.” Abdicating to the developer the role of explaining what went onin the past regarding Lakeside is how and why the developer gothis way in 2020 and 2022, to the detriment of Talbot’s citizens.And you see here how that powerful ploy—use the past to drive the future—was attempted yet again just last month, to unknown effect.
(Another example from the same meeting: regarding the 2004 unanimous rejection of Lakeside, the attorney told Commissioners that “The County Council, after a lot of debate, ultimately indicated that the County would not support the Town moving forward with its infrastructure.” In fact, there was ZERO debate; opposition to Lakeside was so dead certain that, at 10 am on that day, the Town of Trappe attempted to withdraw the Resolution…without success.)
The same ploy was used in 2022 to known effect. It underminedthe County’s effort to rescind R281 even in the face of the Planning Commission’s reversal of a decision–after learningthings about Lakeside that it had never known before—and finding that R281 was in fact NOT consistent with our Comp Plan. (Such a finding is prerequisite to Council approval, and should have resulted in the Council’s rescission also.)
The corrosive impact of the tactic was even worse in 2020. Infamously, and as official transcripts and video show clearly, R281 and its maps were certified by the Planning Commission as consistent with our Comp Plan without any meaningful discussion of public infrastructure, such as roads and schools and public safety—or the impact on taxes—because of what was told about the past. The telling was marked (in the phraseology of Maryland law) by “fraud, surprise, mistake or inadvertence.”
The Talbot Integrity Project (“TIP”) has been making this claim seemingly forever, but this time there is a difference. Today, a detailed Annotated Outline of the history of the Lakeside approval process is on-line here (historyoflakesideapprovals.net), with hyperlinks from the Outline directly to each underlying document and letter and email referred to in the chronology. If you have the stomach for it, it’s truly a fascinating read…like watching the sausage being made.
TIP offers up this Outline in answer to the nihilistic and useless claim that “we’ll never know,” or “it’s just one person’s word against the other.” TIP believes there is an objectively true story, and here we’ve done our best to lay it out. We welcome documented input that, in subsequent releases, will supplement this record or correct any errors.
(This “Annotated Outline” is in three parts. PART I runs from 2000 to 2010, when Lakeside arranged to obtain MDE permits without required County approval. PART II covers the period 2019 until May 2021, when “fraud, surprise, mistake or inadvertence” led to the award of the “S-1, immediate priority” classification long sought by the developer. PART III will be added shortly, documenting how, for 30 months and counting, the developer and his allies have tried to thwart citizens’ efforts to correct past wrongs. But we’re not done yet.
I believe friend and foe alike have misunderstood TIP’s focus. People think TIP is fixated on ancient history, somehow stuck in the past, pointlessly kvetching over improprieties from two decades ago. Improper permits issued in the Ehrlich Administration? They all lapsed, and who cares anyway—unless those permits, and the implication that “all must have been reviewed and approved long ago”—is yet again the reason that improper maps and sewer classifications are approved today.
That’s the point of all this. Bad decisions made in 2020 and in 2022 were driven by the mis-telling of what went before, by“fraud, surprise, mistake, and inadvertence.” And it seems to be happening yet again in connection with R348, right under our nose
A final note: Orwell’s is not the only wisdom that is fitting. Scripture, well known to citizens and government officials alike, offers this:
“The truth will set you free.”
The Talbot integrity Project