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As of 5-14-03

A Concerned Citizen’s Check-List for New Title 18 

 Soon our new County Commissioners will be considering whether to approve a new zoning law: Title 18.  This law will regulate land use and development in the County for the next several years.

Will the new Title 18 be better than what we have now?  Will it protect the County’s heritage – or will it turn the County into a bedroom suburb of the Western Shore?

 The answer depends both on what’s in the new Title 18 itself and on what other legal measures are put in place by the Commissioners when they adopt new Title 18.

 Here is a check-list of what is needed to preserve our County.  As concerned citizens, let’s ask our Commissioners to: 

Pause to Plan for the Three Most Pressured Growth Areas:

1.  Do not include Queenstown Master-Planned Development District (QMPD) or Resort District (QRD) in new Title 18 (Queenstown Growth Area to be rezoned only after updating of Community Plan and adoption of new Critical Farm Program (see No. 3 below)). 

2.  Suspend Chester and Stevensville Master-Planned Development Districts (CMPD, SMPD) by adopting overlay zones in new Title 18 temporarily restoring lower-density (pre-1997/9) zoning for Chester and Stevensville Growth Areas until these areas are rezoned consistent with updated Community Plans and relevant provisions of new Critical Farm Program. 

Alternative 2. Temporarily withhold sewer allocation from proposed major residential projects (more than 5 units) in the CMPD and SMPD until Chester and Stevensville Growth Areas are rezoned consistent with updated Community Plans and relevant provisions of new Critical Farm Program.  This alternative requires, no later than the adoption of new Title 18, (a) amendment of the Master Water and Sewer Plan and 
(b) adoption of No. 11 below.
Preserve Our County’s Rural Character:

3.  Launch Critical Farm Program (requiring developers of major projects in Growth and Critical Areas to help fund rural preservation by purchasing transferable development rights from rural property owners): authorize and appoint, no later than the adoption of new Title 18, an oversight board and staff to plan and develop the Program.

4.  Limit rural sprawl by approving, no later than the adoption of new Title 18, an amendment to Resolution 03-14 (Temporary Limit on Residential Building Permits) that caps permits outside growth areas at 20% of annual total for County.  See also No. 10 below.

5.  Prevent destablizing exceptions to zoning standards for rural areas by eliminating from new Title 18 so-called “noncontiguous development” (under which development rights can be transferred among separated parcels to create much higher density on one selected parcel).

6.  Protect the visual beauty of the County’s farmscapes by incorporating into new Title 18  standards protecting scenic vistas from unsightly development (along the lines of the 2002 Kent County Land Use Ordinance). 

7.  Maintain quality of life for farmland residents by eliminating from the AG zoning district in new Title 18 inappropriate conditional uses such as (a) airports (public and private) and heliports (public), (b) extraction and disposal (except minor extraction (sand and gravel) and dredge disposal), and (c) funeral homes.

8.  Maintain rural-appropriate scale of County’s built environment by adopting, no later than the adoption of new Title 18, legislation restricting size of “big box” retail stores and imposing County-wide building height limit.

Enhance Environmental Protection: 

9.  Preserve stream and shore buffers, retain forest cover, and control pier length by adopting in new Title 18 the recommendations on these subjects contained in the Chester Riverkeeper’s submission to the Planning Commission dated February 7, 2003.

Prevent Accelerated Development:

10.  Maintain County’s historic rate of residential growth by amending Resolution 03-14, no later than adoption of new Title 18, to (a) reduce to 400 the number of permits that may be issued annually for new residential units, (b) provide for reconsideration of annual limit in response to residential construction within municipalities, and (c) extend the life of the Resolution through 2006.  See also No. 4 above.

11.  Prevent build-up of pressures for excessive development by requiring in the text of new Title 18, as a condition precedent to subdivision or site plan review, that a major residential project (a) have been amended into the Master Water and Sewer Plan with S-1/W-1 status (water/sewer existing or under construction) if in a Growth Area, or (b) if outside a Growth Area and involving 40 or more dwelling units, will be connected from the outset to public water and sewer. 

Ensure Fairness:

12.  Protect small builders and developers by requiring in new Title 18, as a condition of subdivision or site plan review of any large-scale residential project (40 or more units), a decision by the Planning Commission finding that the project will not adversely affect the availability of permits under Resolution 03-14 (see No. 10 above) to persons wishing to build residences on lots created one year or more prior, or to developers of minor residential projects (5 or fewer units).

13.  Encourage development of affordable housing by including in new Title 18 the zoning changes and impact/building permit fee reductions recommended in the March 25, 2003 Report of the Affordable Housing Committee to the County Commissioners.

14.  Provide notice and opportunity to be heard (“due process”) for persons affected by major developments by requiring in new Title 18 (a) mailed notice to neighbors before concept/sketch plan review and (b) posted notice of the proposed development on the property throughout the entire development review process.

15.  Refuse requests for inappropriate zoning map amendments by rejecting requests for special treatment that would extend strip development along Routes 50 and 404, degrade scenic values on Route 301 north of the “split”, or contribute to rural sprawl. 

 The foregoing check-list has been compiled by Save Our County largely from the “Comments on Title 18 from the Focus groups and written responses”, Department of Planning and Zoning, February 14, 2003, in particular from the written submissions by several private citizens, by Commissioner Mike Koval, and by groups including the Kent Island Defense League, Millington Quality of Life Preservation Coalition, Chester River Association, and Save Our County. 
Twelve of the fifteen items on the check-list find express support, in whole or in part, in Resolution 03-15 (Policy Guidance to Protect Our Heritage and Shape Our Future), authored by Commissioner Cupani and adopted by the Commissioners on March 4, 2003.  Of the three remaining items, one (No. 11) simply codifies existing practice of the Department of Planning and Zoning.  A second, dealing with the crucial issue of pending large-scale development proposals for Kent Island (No. 2 and 2A), implements a publicly-stated commitment of Commissioners Ransom and Koval and a fundamental position of the Kent Island Defense League and Kent Island Civic Confederation.  The third (No. 15) is based on an ongoing review of requested map amendments by Save Our County.
For further information, or if you have questions, contact Save County by email at soc@toadmail.com or by regular mail at P.O. Box 97, Centreville, 21617.

What is SAVE OUR COUNTY? 

  Save Our County is a non-partisan volunteer association of concerned citizens who came together in May 2002 in response to the growing threat of speeded-up, large-scale residential development in Queen Anne’s County.  Our goal was to preserve the County’s rural character with residential growth appropriate to its heritage of small towns, farms, waterways, and woodlands.

  We formed a political action committee (“PAC”) with the purpose of identifying and supporting Commissioner candidates who shared what we believed were the values of the great majority of Queen Anne’s County residents.  Our volunteers met with the candidates asking them to sign a pledge to the voters of the county that, if elected, they would “do everything in my power, as one Commissioner among five, to keep the rate of residential growth in the coming years from exceeding what it has averaged over the past ten years.”  With a list of Democratic and Republican candidates who had signed the pledge, Save Our County urged voters to support these candidates in their Party’s primary election. 

  Every candidate endorsed by Save Our County won in the primary on September 10, 2002.  Since all eleven candidates running in the general election had, by signing the pledge, demonstrated their commitment to hold residential growth at its historic limits, Save Our County played no part in the general election.

  The efforts of Save Our County during the primary election were supported by the response of citizens with contributions of time and funds to help inform County residents which candidates had committed to no speed-up in residential growth.  The names of the many contributors from all walks of life and from all over the county who supported Save Our County PAC with donations - both large and small - are part of the public record filed at the State Board of Elections in Annapolis.

  Save Our County does not currently operate as a political action committee, which is, by definition, one involved in an election process.  Save Our County now functions as a group of committed volunteer citizens who appear before and work with County governmental entities, relevant State and Federal agencies, and the general public.  Save Our County volunteers develop and support measures fostering the kind of growth in Queen Anne’s County that will be consistent with its preservation as a predominantly rural county. 

  Our members, led by Rich Altman, the chairman and a professional planner, also meet and work with members of other organizations in the growing movement to protect the County’s heritage and natural resources.  Among the groups with which Save Our County maintains contacts and shares some members are Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, Kent Island Defense League, Chester River Association, Queen Anne’s County Responsible Growth, Kent Island Civic Confederation, Millington Quality of Life Preservation Coalition, Queenstown Community Association, and Eastern Shoreway Alliance. 

(Adapted from a recent letter to the editor of the Bay Times/Record Observer by Save Our County’s Treasurer, Mary Campbell)
 
 


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