Council passes tougher shore protection bill Some members cite state pressure as reason for vote despite skepticism

August 03, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County Council unanimously passed a tougher shoreline protection program last night, although some lawmakers protested that they did so only under pressure from the state.

Before the vote, Assistant County Attorney Jamie Insley told the council that if the measure did not pass, the state's Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission would impose its own restrictions on all construction within 1,000 feet of the bay or its tidal tributaries.

"I would certainly hope that we would rather be the authors of the criteria that our staff has to enforce," Mrs. Insley said.

Still, Council Chairman David Boschert, D-Crownsville, and Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, made clear they had reservations and resented the commission's interference.

At one point, as the president of the Severn River Association neighborhood group chastised the council for delaying passage for the past several weeks, Mr. Boschert interrupted angrily.

"Don't get flip with us. . . . Chill out," Mr. Boschert said. "This bill will pass, but not without due process.

"It's easy for someone who doesn't own land along the water to come in here and say, 'Do it now.' But we're under extra pressure from waterfront property owners. And I'm here to guarantee those waterfront property owners will be heard."

Said Councilwoman Lamb, who complained that the bill has major problems, "I don't care to 'just get the show on the road.' I just want to get it right."

A half-dozen waterfront property owners appeared before the council to object to the restrictions imposed on waterfront construction. The new bill will require greater scrutiny of more projects -- everything from major subdivisions to individual decks -- than the county's existing program, adopted in 1988.

The bill requires anyone who wants to disturb a "habitat protection area" to go through a public hearing to obtain a variance. Habitat protection areas include everything within 100 feet of the water, nontidal wetlands and nesting areas for endangered species and some other birds.

The bill also closes loopholes that exempted certain projects from the rules.

The Critical Area Commission notified the county in April 1992 that it had found 22 areas of the county program in conflict with state law and asked it to resolve the problem. County officials have met with residents and developers for a year to draft the legislation.

Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, agreed that property rights must be protected, but defended the need for stricter regulations. Waterfront property owners, who benefit from the water, have an obligation to protect it, he said.

"If these rivers die, your waterfront property isn't going to be worth a plugged nickel," he said.

The law takes effect 45 days after County Executive Robert R. Neall, who proposed it, signs it. But the state commission still must conduct a hearing and give its approval.

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