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Maryland growth law: Counties' plans a mixed bag in compliance review

The Maryland Department of Planning issued a report recently summing up how counties were faring under the new septic system law. Of the counties that have adopted land development plans so far, two were clearly not in compliance, the report said. Eight counties were in "substantial compliance," and a few are somewhere in between. Anne Arundel County is one of a dozen counties that have not adopted a development plan.

We wrote about the law and counties' efforts to comply in November and July 2012. Lawmakers adopted the law as a way to fight pollution: Limiting new developments' use of septic systems significantly lowers the risk of water pollution and encourages developers to use land more productively. The law institutes a multi-tiered system meant to govern where septic systems would be used. What lawmakers did not do, however, was include a provision that would allow the state to reject a county plan that does not comply.

So, two counties, Frederick and Cecil, may move ahead with their plans that according to the report "largely ignored" the new law. Neither county has designated enough land for residential developments that would not rely on septic systems. Without an outright veto, though, the Planning Department is looking for a way to encourage Frederick and Cecil counties to amend their plans.

Baltimore city and Baltimore County both met the requirements. Somerset County submitted its plan after the cutoff for this report; it will be reviewed in the department's next report. Allegany County met most requirements, but one sector that is mostly agricultural or forest land was not correctly identified as land that will not need sewer services.

Source: The Washington Examiner, "Maryland reports on county growth law compliance," Associated Press, Feb. 2, 2013

Our firm helps developers with Maryland zoning and planning matters similar to the one discussed above. If you'd like to learn more about our Annapolis-based practice, please visit the land use and zoning page of our website.

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