July 17, 2018
Politics & Opinion
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Letter To The Editor: The Rise And Demise Of The Preservation-Oriented Development Bill, 94-16

May 31, 2017

The land, streams, rivers and the bay in Anne Arundel County have existed for centuries. Mother Nature developed the county and maintained it as a perfect place to live. The government was formed to protect the land and the people who live here. They wrote a code to provide that protection. They then wrote modifications to avoid compliance.

Several years ago, the county executive and the Planning and Zoning officer stated at a town hall meeting, and later in the newspaper, that the requirements of the code had been modified so often that a loophole had been created and the ability of the Planning and Zoning officer to disapprove modifications had been greatly diminished. An effort was made strengthen the code and remove those loopholes. Bill 94-16 was the result. The bill was defeated on March 20, 2017, primarily due to lack of understanding by members of the county council – perhaps our fault as much as theirs.

A developer discovers a parcel of land and decides to develop it residentially. The incentive is two-fold. One is to create, design and build residential homes for residents to purchase and live in and enjoy for generations. The other is to make a profit. Often, these two incentives are in direct opposition to each other. The ethics of the developer are extremely important to the resulting community. The code and the enforcement of the code, or modifications of the code by the county, will also determine the result.

The developer acquires the land, and with guidance from the code and Planning and Zoning, the developer will determine how the land will be developed. They then build the project, determine how it must be maintained for the life of the community and by whom. While the developer is briefly in charge, the land is changed forever. The county and the taxpayers pick up 20 percent of the cost of the development and the infrastructure needed to serve the community, and the developer walks away with a profit. Should the developer have that much power?

The over-engineering of these developments use very precise calculations based on very imprecise and randomly chosen factors like soil types, rainfall amounts, vegetation and contour lines. The numbers make it seem precise, but the real results will be quite random and constantly change over time. If they work so well, why are our streams and rivers so polluted after using them for years?

Some maintenance agreements now contain requirements that pervious concrete driveways must be vacuumed every six months to insure the stormwater management plan, created by the developer and approved by the county, will function properly. The county will inspect the driveways every three years to insure the six-month vacuuming has occurred. Agreements like this are unrealistic and almost guarantee failure of the stormwater management plan. Is this the best we can do? I hope not!

Art Timmons
Greater Severna Park Council
Vice President of Public Affairs

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