Soil conservation district opposes change in storm-water rules

August 19, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The county's soil conservation district has asked County Executive Robert R. Neall to withdraw a bill that would cut the independent panel out of the review process for storm-water management waivers.

The bill, which rewrites the county's storm-water management regulations, was introduced to the County Council Monday night. A hearing is scheduled Wednesday night.

Members of the soil conservation district's five-member Board of Supervisors are upset because the proposed legislation would not allow them to comment to the county's planning office during the subdivision review process and when a developer applies for a waiver to storm-water management regulations.

"We have no idea of what the reason for taking us out was. We were not contacted ahead of time, and we would definitely object to it," said Lillian M. Griffith, soil conservation district manager. "We are not part of the county, we are our own entity, and it is always good to have two fingers in the pie, so to speak."

Ms. Griffith said the district's board will ask the council to withdraw the bill and form a commission to rewrite the legislation.

"We're flabbergasted at what's going on," said board member Lina Vlavianos. "Public works will have the sole responsibility on deciding what will be waived.

"We feel that we are able to impartially look at this waiver requirement and make comments," she said. "And of course, we have had battles with public works because our approach is rather conservative. Their approach is liberal. It's an engineering approach."

Robert Dvorak, Mr. Neall's chief administrative officer who until recently headed the county's planning department, said the bill eliminates redundancy, since the soil conservation district still must approve a developer's erosion and sediment control plan when a grading permit is requested.

"I think it sounds like people are concerned their turf is being cut into," Mr. Dvorak said.

Soil conservation officials said problems arise because the wording of county regulations requiring developers to alleviate water runoff or to receive waivers from the regulations are too vague and allow various interpretations.

"Any time you have someone looking at something and there is room for interpretation, that amounts to trouble," Ms. Griffith said.

One of two solutions would be acceptable to board members: either include them in the review process, or tighten the language.

"If they strengthen the words, no loopholes, no questions for interpretation, we would have less work, we would very glady give that up," Ms. Vlavianos said. "But I mean really strengthen it."

Several environmentalists promised to back the soil conservation district, saying they believed Mr. Dvorak was behind the move.

"It's just Bob Dvorak trying to consolidate control of all planning and zoning decisions in the director's office," said James R. Martin Jr., a member and former president of the Severn River Association. "They're going to have this blow up in their faces."

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