State OKs law on Arundel critical areas

November 04, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

A state panel approved yesterday Anne Arundel County's critical areas law, nearly a year and a half after that panel found 22 provisions in the law that conflicted with state regulations.

But the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission deleted a provision that exempted some subdivisions on the Broadneck Peninsula from the law.

Applications for those subdivisions were accepted before the state adopted critical areas legislation. They were placed on a waiting list for sewer connections, but were not approved until after the original critical areas law passed in 1988.

The deleted provision required any developer on the waiting list whose subdivision applications had not been approved by the county by last July 1 either to abide by the new, stricter regulations or to obtain a variance from the county's administrative hearing officer.

No new exemptions can be granted, officials said yesterday.

They worried that eliminating the exemption for those subdivisions would, in effect, eliminate property lines for the subdivisions, some of which already have been built.

Assistant County Attorney Jamie Insley asked, "What happens when you go to build a shed? What happens when you go to refinance" and lenders or contractors discover property lines don't exist?

Assistant Attorney General George E. H. Gay, the commission lawyer, argued that the exemption in the county law does not adequately reflect state law. The question over property lines could be solved if the state commission specified that it did not intend to invalidate previous subdivision approvals by eliminating the exemption for the Broadneck subdivisions.

Although the commission approved the language, Ms. Insley was not satisfied.

"Ultimately, I think the question of [determining property lines] will be decided by a court," she said.

The commission first raised questions about Anne Arundel's critical areas law -- which restricts development along the bay and its tributaries, and other environmentally sensitive areas -- in April 1992.

In June, the commission invalidated sections of the county's program, such as those that gave county planners broad discretion to grant exceptions to the regulations. The commission gave the county 90 days to correct the problems.

The County Council passed the revised critical areas law in August.

Yesterday, county and state officials expressed relief that the problems had been resolved.

"It's been a long, tedious, painful and sometimes difficult process," commission Chairman John C. North II told county officials at the meeting at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge. "We're glad these matters have been resolved as they have."

"It's not been an easy process and maybe it's not supposed to be," replied Thomas C. Andrews, who oversees county departments on land use.

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