As previously reported on Conduit Street, many stakeholders testified for and against the Administration’s septics legislation last week in the House and Senate hearings. As part of its testimony, MML supported the bill with a suggested amendment that if a county did not include a municipality’s planned extension of water and sewer services into the county’s water and sewer master plan, then the municipality may appeal directly to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for consideration of the extension. The Administration has offered a set of “concept amendments” that would allow MDE, in consultation with the Maryland Department of Planning to decide who should prevail if there is a dispute between a county and a municipality over the designation of their tiers.
MML has long sought to have the final say over these elements of county water and sewer plans, and MACo has consistently opposed such a takeover. The water and sewer plan is one of the few tools a county has to stop detrimental annexation that might overburden county schools or other services for which municipal governments bear no responsibility, and do not necessarily consider in land use planning. These issues were debated extensively during the deliberations of the annexation bill in 2006. This issue potentially opens a broader land use and annexation issue that goes beyond the immediate septic system debate. MACo believes that counties and their municipalities should be required to meet and try to work out their differences in good faith. However, MACo will oppose any attempt that erodes a critical county land use power and vests further decision-making authority with the State.