County Executive Robert R. Neall has been asked to impose a moratorium on some waterfront development until a state panel can complete its review of the county's critical area law next fall.
A March 4 report issued by the state Critical Area Commission's staff says the county's law is too lenient with developments proposed before the law went into effect in 1988. And that leniency is wreaking environmental havoc on the Magothy, South and West rivers, say three residents who live on the waterways and have proposed the moratorium.
The three are Peg Burroughs, an environmental activist on the West River; John Flood, president of the Federation of South River Associations; and Betsy Kulle, a Woods Landing resident active on the Little Magothy.
They say they've watched the rivers be hurt by more intense development than the state's Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program, passed in 1984, intended. The critical area is a protected 1,000-foot strip along the shore of the bay and its tributaries.
To prevent further damage, they want the county to withhold all building permits and other approvals from "grandfathered" lots -- those in the works before the law went into effect -- until the county brings its law into compliance with the state program.
Anne Hairston, a plannerwith the state Critical Area Commission, said exempting certain developments from some environmental protections is permitted under the state program. But county law exempts those projects from all standards, asking only that they be applied "insofar as possible."
Hairston said the state program bars development within 100 feet of the waterfront. Under the county program, subdivisions delayed by a county sewer moratorium in the mid-1980s are not being asked to provide that buffer, she said.
Kulle's Woods Landing's community association hasappealed the county's approval of a 153-town house development on the Little Magothy River, in part because it allows building within the100-foot buffer. The Board of Appeals hearing, which began Wednesday, is being continued on May 4.
"We went to the county executive because there are subdivisions that could go in and cause enormous damage before the county gets things straightened out with the Critical Area Commission," Kulle said.
Flood said the group also is concerned that the county law does not require environmental reviews of all applications for building permits and variances within the critical area. Inspectors are only investigating those considered "waterfront" property, he said.
The three also said they are concerned the county critical area law is not as strict as the state's with regard to marina expansions. County provisions on reforestation also seem to encourage, rather than discourage, developers to clear trees, Flood said.