Since my wife and I moved to Sherwood in the Bay Hundred area, we have seen a slow but steady stream of changes. Businesses have come and gone, a few new houses were built, and more cars on route 33 can be seen. However, the rural character of Bay Hundred region, except St. Michaels and parts of Tilghman Island, has held fast.
The agricultural, forested and semi-aquatic landscapes around and between Royal Oak, Bozman, Claiborne, Neavitt, Wittman, McDaniel, Fairbanks, Arcadia Shores, Travelers Rest, Newcomb and Hynsontown are sparsely developed and remain the reason why people came here to live.
This could soon change, if the County Council does not take action to add language to Chapter 190 of the County Code, which regulates zoning, subdivision and land use development. The Council is presently considering changes to this chapter and has before it an amendment that will help protect the western part of the County from sprawl development.
Earlier in the year the Council, with the urging of Council persons Price and Bartlett, added language to the Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan that approved a sewer project for the Bozman/Neavitt neck. The language in Resolution 250 clarified that, even though some properties were abutting the sewer line, the owners would not be entitled to a zoning change, just because of the location of the sewer line. The owners would still have to show there had been other substantial changes to the neighborhood.
During the many hours of discussion about how to protect existing land use while bringing sewer service to the villages of Bozman and Neavitt, Ms. Price and Mr. Bartlett offered many suggestions that resulted in land use protections for this particular project. All of this discussion was needed because the County was unaware of State law that required properties abutting sewer lines to be eligible for connections when a sewer line was being built, even if they are Tier IV and not planned for sewer.
In addition to resolution 250, there was legislation in the form of Bill 1378, which would amend the County Comprehensive Plan. The Bill called for criteria to define when Tier IV parcels are eligible for sewer. Ms. Price offered language to narrow the scope to the Bozman/Neavitt sewer service area. Mr. Bartlett introduced language that was similar to Ms. Price’s for Resolution 250 [Mapping of Tier IV properties into the sewer service area not intended to encourage development or subdivision of parcels that could be inconsistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and to preserve the rural character of the County].
This was seconded by Ms. Price and passed on a yes vote from all five members.
Once 1378 passed the Council reconsidered Resolution 250, after review and approval by the Planning Commission, and added an amendment stating that it is the intention of the Council that inclusion of Tier IV parcels in the Bozman/Neavitt sewer service are will not increase the amount of development or density allowed by law.
Now with all this language added to the Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan and the Comprehensive Plan, the Council, as stated above, now must approve changes to Chapter 190 that County Planning and Zoning staff have been so diligently working on for months. Bill 1401 amends Chapter 190 and as with Resolution 250 and Bill 1378, Ms. Price and Mr. Bartlett have supported language that restricts connections to sewer for parcels that would not ordinarily be entitled to changes in density. An amendment (#4) has been introduced by Ms. Price that states “Entitlement to connect to public sewer shall not alone be sufficient to support finding of substantial change in the character of the neighborhood on community where the property is located…”
This would bring the zoning and development ordinance, Chapter 190, in line with the Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan and Comprehensive Plan and is not overkill, as has been stated by another Council member.
So far this language has not been supported by Ms. Williams, nor Messrs. Pack and Callahan. They need to show the folks in the Bay Hundred region that they oppose sprawl development and want to protect the rural character of the area. Anything short of their support of amendment #4 to Bill 1401, tells me how to vote in November.
Bill Kennedy is the chair of the Steering Committee for the Bay Hundred Coalition. He is a environmental engineer and former Commissioner on the Patuxent River Commission, and past chair of the State Water Quality Advisory Committee. He lives in Sherwood, MD.