Stormwater Management – compromise comes together

Even in the absence of bill hearings and more traditional venues for testimony and concern, MACo has advocated for flexibility in implementing new stormwater regulations regarding environmental site design and runoff reduction. Counties have nee raising concerns with interference with projects already receiving approval under “old rules” for stormwater management, and regarding the narrow interpretation of “redevelopment” used that may impede generally positive downtown projects. In recent days, MACo has been among several stakeholders working toward a compromise on the issue, the essence of which is detailed in today’s Baltimore Sun.

From the Sun article:

Builders, environmentalists and government officials have reached a compromise in a looming legislative fight that threatened to weaken Maryland’s new storm-water pollution rules, they said Monday.

The deal, hammered out over more than a week of negotiations, would head off a move by lawmakers in Annapolis to soften or delay by up to a decade the requirements for controlling runoff from development, which are supposed to take effect May 4.

Further in the Sun coverage, the range of views on the sensitive issue becomes evident:

Under the compromise, projects that already have preliminary approval from county or municipal government would be able to proceed in many cases under existing, less-stringent, storm-water rules. Developers would get up to three years to get final local approval of their plans, but they would have to start construction by 2017 or be forced to install more runoff controls.

Environmentalists have pressed to get new storm-water controls in place as soon as possible, saying that runoff from urban and suburban lands is the only source of bay pollution that is growing.

“It’s never a good thing where we’re going to postpone cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay a bit,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland, an anti-sprawl group. But she said the deal clarifies and limits the breaks given to projects.

Redevelopment projects in designated growth areas also would be eligible for waivers. Baltimore City and Baltimore County officials had complained, as had others, that the regulations would discourage “infill” development and urban and suburban revitalization efforts.

“We think we’ve got a solution here that’s a reasonable solution and that acknowledges the reality of projects we’re trying to get in the future,” said David A.C. Carroll, director of sustainability for Baltimore County.

Environmentalists said they were satisfied in preventing more serious changes in the law.

A bill hearing on HB 1125, legislation introduced to alter and defer many of the proposed regulations, has been canceled by the House Environmental Matters Committee, likely pending the continued work toward this compromise.

March 9 Center Maryland Article

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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