Plan would help a family stay on its land by the bay

December 09, 1994|By Pat Gilbert | Pat Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

The 38 acres of woods near Balliston Point along Baltimore County's Chesapeake Bay shoreline are all that remain of the once large land holdings of the Porter family.

Norbert J. Porter, the 71-year-old patriarch of the family, wants to make sure those acres on the Back River Neck Peninsula will have a Porter living on them for at least the next several generations.

And now a change recommended by a county advisory committee to the county's Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program would make it easier for Mr. Porter to subdivide his land for his grandchildren.

The committee said subdivision and development of land for immediate family members should not have to go through the lengthy growth-allocation process.

The county program, enacted in 1987 and patterned after a state program, restricts development for areas within 1,000 feet of the shore. In 1988, the county extended the critical areas farther inland to include parts of the various peninsulas that jut into the bay.

Development proposals must undergo a rigorous review culminating in action by the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission.

Before a recent change, the development proposal also would have had to go through the county's regular development review process. The development proposal now simultaneously follows both review tracks.

The intrafamily subdivision recommendation already has won county Planning Board approval.

Most of the 1,000 acres the Porter family had nearly 200 years ago has been sold, with the biggest chunk a part of the county's Rocky Point Park, Mr. Porter said.

"If I had been forced to go through the process as it now is, I doubt if I could have won approval to provide lots for my grandchildren," he said. "The process is confusing."

About 10,000 acres in the county were designated as fitting within the Critical Area Program. The county set aside 372 acres of the total for development.

A frequent criticism of the complicated development allocation process is the lack of information about it, said Tom Toporovich, former secretary to the Council Council who is chairman of the special advisory committee.

To address that, one of the committee's nine recommendations calls for the county to prepare a brochure and instructional manual to assist property owners.

"Most of the committee's recommendations were basically to apply a more practical approach to the process," said Mr. Toporovich.

For example, one calls for a modification in the provision requiring a 10 percent reduction in pollution for any expansion in developed areas. For example, if a small business wanted to expand under current regulations, it would have to reduce its pollution, such as by removing a portion of its parking lot. Chemical residue left by vehicles on parking lots washes off with rainwater and can end up in the bay.

"It was felt that in this kind of example, the business wanting to expand could pay into a fund that help the county pay for upgrading storm water retention in the shoreline areas," said J. James Dieter, county environmental director.

The recommendations must be approved by the County Council before going to the state Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission.

"We didn't go through a comprehensive review of the critical area program, but concentrated on those aspects that the committee and others had concerns," Mr. Toporovich said. "We left the details and the implementation up to the county."

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