In its latest and arguably most outrageous effort to insulate the Lakeside project from any County oversight, Talbot County is directly defying the Maryland Department of Environment. MDE instructed the County to prepare a new Sewer Service Map for Trappe “with the corrected classifications for all of the parcels within the Town of Trappe including the Lakeside development.” As the lawyers say, “emphasis supplied.”
In response to that directive, the County introduced Resolution 348 (“R348”) to which is attached the new map. After public hearings and a thoughtful review by the Planning Commission (slated for this Wednesday, October 4th) and action by the Council, this document is supposed to resolve the Lakeside fracas at last. The map IS ready for review. However, R348 was carefully drafted explicitly to omit Lakeside entirely from the Planning Commission’s review. That’s right. Omit Lakeside—even though it is the central issue, and MDE’s April 24th directive said explicitly “with the corrected classifications for all of the parcels within the Town of Trappe including the Lakeside development.”
As things stand, MDE might not even see this bald defiance for a month, as the County has not sent the proposed Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan (CWSP) amendment to MDE in advance for review as it is supposed to do. It is apparently the County’s hope and intention that the faulty Resolution will have gone through the entire County review process—PWAB comment, Planning Commission public hearing, evaluation and vote for consistency with the Comp Plan, and Council public hearing and adoption—without anyone noticing. Maybe at that point MDE will just accept the outcome and, once again, the hapless Talbot citizens will have been bamboozled.
And the defiance is directed not at MDE alone. The Planning Commissioners, who in 2020 were dramatically misled by falsehoods when the original Lakeside map was presented, are being abused here. And most fundamentally, the citizens of Talbot County are harmed. If the Planning Commission is forced to accept R348’s improper framing of the “review” of the Trappe sewer map—look at everything except Lakeside—then it might well find the plan “consistent,” and Lakeside would proceed undisturbed. (And if a jury had tried _____ and been prohibited from considering _____, he’d not have been found guilty, either.)
TIP is doing all it can to keep this debacle from happening, and welcomes the efforts of others. The Planning Commission should not review R348 as it is now drafted; to do so is to abandon its responsibility to citizens and its duty to the State legislature, who delegated to it alone (not the Council) the task of evaluating land use plans for consistency with the County Comp Plan. R348 should be withdrawn before the Planning Commission takes it up. If it is somehow forced upon them, Commissioners should find it “inconsistent” because it asks them to ignore their legal responsibilities to do a proper review,
Unless someone on the Council wants to claim the mantle, TIP lays responsibility for this disgraceful maneuver at the feet of our County Attorney, who from TIP’s point of view has done his utmost to protect and advance Lakeside’s interests for three years. It was the County Attorney who crafted the language of R348 once the Council gave direction that a stand-alone resolution be prepared. This is the third attempt to somehow react to MDE’s directive without the matter going before the Planning Commission for a proper review. (The first was an effort to get MDE to simply accept a “substitute map” administratively; the second was an attempt to bury the issues within a 200-page update of the CWSP that Lakeside’s engineer, Rauch, Inc. has been contracted to prepare.)
It’s all pretty outrageous, and while the County dallies with MDE and the Planning Commission, Lakeside marches on. TIP learned this week that a new plat was just recorded for another 180 lots, Lakeside Phase 1D. (A State official signed that plat, certifying that it is consistent with the County CWSP. TIP believes that was incorrect; expect the excuse of “a misunderstanding.”)
Former County Attorney Mike Pullen wrote to the Planning Commission on Wednesday explain the problems with R348 (view here) supplementing TIP’s letter on point (here). TIP also obtained a formal legal opinion on this from its Baltimore attorneys, which arrived yesterday (view here).
Meanwhile, on Wednesday TIP submitted to the Planning Commission its comment letter demonstrating the many reasons why Lakeside is inconsistent with our Comp Plan (view here). That will be relevant only when the Council and/or the County Attorney permits the Planning Commission to do what MDE ordered: review the map for corrections “to all parcels…including Lakeside.”
The Talbot Integrity Project