The Chesapeake Bay and many Eastern Shore rivers and creeks are showing signs of improvement, but these gains are fragile and important work remains. Here in Talbot County, aged and failing septic systems are a significant contributor of nitrogen pollution, which fuels algae blooms that cloud the water and deprive fish, crabs, and oysters of oxygen.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes the County’s plan to stop this harmful cycle by extending public sewer service is sound – if, and only if, new development along the lines is adequately controlled. The County must be clear about the potential impacts from new growth and provide certainty that all necessary steps are taken to mitigate those impacts.
A zoning amendment proposed by Councilwoman Laura Price is one of those necessary steps. This amendment would ensure that a developer couldn’t use a new public sewer line as the sole justification for a zoning change that would dramatically increase the number of houses permitted in rural areas of the county.
While extending sewer can yield great rewards in the form of reduced pollution to local rivers and the Bay, increased development can produce great risks. Ms. Price’s amendment is clear, consistent with state zoning standards, and in our view, the only amendment under consideration that would adequately ensure new sewer lines reduce pollution instead of driving new growth.
We urge the Talbot County Council to adopt Amendment No. 4 to the proposed zoning code and clarify that a “substantial change” to a neighborhood is not determined only by newly extended sewer service.
Eastern Shore Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation