Bayside building fines rising

Penalties going up tenfold on `critical areas' violations

`Cause people to think twice'

Construction industry not opposed to change

Anne Arundel

July 06, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

People who build illegally in areas near the Chesapeake Bay will face significantly stiffer fines under a new Anne Arundel County law.

The increased fines are part of the county's attempt to crack down on building violations along its more than 500 miles of shoreline. Environmental activists have criticized the county for not policing offenses in state-designated "critical areas" aggressively.

The new penalty for illegal grading in the critical areas will increase from $500 to $5,000 beginning Aug. 9.

The penalties for building a pier or bulkhead without a permit and continuing work in defiance of a stop order also will increase from $500 to $5,000. The fines for repeat offenses will rise from $1,000 to $10,000.

"I hope this legislation will inhibit future destruction of land," said County Executive Janet S. Owens, who recently signed the measure. "These fines will hopefully be a deterrent to those who make conscious decisions to work without a permit or continue building or grading while a stop work order has been issued."

The county's Web site lists more than 40 critical-area violations this year, and a county spokesman said that, if the new law were already in effect, about 75 percent of those would be subject to the maximum fine.

The county has been praised by state officials for improving its enforcement of critical-area laws. Owens designated a county staff member to be in charge of the enforcement program full time, and the county has used a police helicopter to monitor the shoreline for potential violations.

The building industry did not oppose the increased fines.

"If it takes a wake-up call like this, I guess we don't have any choice," said Susan Stroud Parker, co-director of government affairs for the Homebuilders Association of Maryland. "Hopefully, it will cause people to think twice."

Parker said larger developers and builders are less likely to draw the fines than are individual homeowners unfamiliar with the nuances of critical-area law.

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