Septics Task Force Will Also Consider Larger Growth Issues

The Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal held its first meeting on July 6 and outlined the land use and growth issues it will examinefor the remainder of the year.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Task Force is the result of legislation introduced during the 2011 Session that would have prohibited developments of 5 units of more from being on septic systems.  Delegate Maggie McIntosh is the chair of the Task Force and Jon Laria serves as the Vice Chair.  Mr. Laria is also chair of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission. The Task Force is charged with examining both septic system and sustainable growth issues and its recommendations are due to Governor Martin O’Malley by December 1, 2011.

The Task Force is composed of 28 members, including two MACo representatives:  Caroline County Planning Director Katheleen Freeman and Anne Arundel County Councilman Chris Trumbauer.  Other county representatives include Worcester County Commissioner Jimmy Bunting , and Worcester County Environmental Programs Administrator Bob Mitchell.  Municipal representatives include Bel Air Mayor David Carey and Frederick City Deputy Planning Director Joe Adkins.  Russ Brinsfield, who represents the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, is also the Mayor of Vienna.  Other members include State departmental secretaries and legislators and representatives from the environmental, Smart Growth, development, and agricultural communities.

Delegate McIntosh started the meeting by stating that she expects the Task Force to have “concrete recommendations for legislation, regulations, and policies” that would be adopted by both the State and local governments and address:  (1) sustainable growth; and (2) reducing the flow of nitrogen and other pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay.  She indicated that the Task Force would meet bi-weekly and would form subcommittees to address specific issues.  She reiterated the need to focus on the “larger picture” and look at sustainable growth in Maryland but also cautioned that she does “not want to become the queen of local zoning.”

After hearing presentations on septic systems from Department of Environment and Department of Planning staff, task force members discussed some of the issues the Task Force should consider, including:

  • documenting the consequences of inaction;
  • the potential impact on agricultural land values and agricultural preservation programs;
  • the potential impact on economic development and affordable housing;
  • avoiding “one-size-fits all” solutions;
  • examining the advantages and drawbacks of centralized versus local autonomy and control;
  • conducting a cost-benefit analysis of different nitrogen removal strategies, including the costs of upgrading municipal sewer systems;
  • incentivizing the private maintenance of septic systems through incentives such as tax write-offs;
  • marketing tourism in the rural parts of the State;
  • incentivizing sustainable growth behavior through regulation; and
  • analyzing septic pollution from a regional perspective.


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