Arundel set to protect shoreline

Helicopter may be used to enforce critical-area law

April 20, 2003|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Responding to criticism by a state commission that they weren't doing enough to protect the shoreline from development, Anne Arundel County officials have launched an ambitious enforcement program, including the use of a helicopter to locate waterfront trouble spots.

Last year, the county was rebuked by the Critical Area Commission, which enforces a state law limiting development within 1,000 feet of the bay, for failing to properly enforce the law and follow up on reported violations. But Ren Serey, the commission's executive director, says the county has improved its enforcement program.

"Because of the volume of waterfront properties, it just seemed that it was kind of overwhelming," Serey said Thursday. "But now ... there is consistency."

After complaints from residents, commission staff members last year called a county hot line to test the enforcement system.

"There were people who were supposed to be dealing with these complaints who were not really clued in to the law," said Serey.

In response to the concerns, County Executive Janet S. Owens tapped a staff member to head critical-area enforcement full time and has dedicated space on the county's Web site to post violations as well as fines and mitigation. As part of her re-election campaign last year, Owens promised to use a police helicopter to make regular checks.

The county's Department of Inspections and Permits, which enforces the critical-area law, has 12 full-time inspectors who operate under a "zero-tolerance philosophy," Pam Jordan, a land-use spokeswoman for the county, said in an e-mail statement.

Citations are routinely issued for violations such as illegal bulkheads, piers and sheds. Recent fines ranged from $500 to more than $1,000.

The next step for the county will be use of a police helicopter to conduct observation of the shoreline. Helicopter patrols are set to begin in July.

Sun staff writer Julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.

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