Wicomico County Council Considers Limited “Opt Out” Proposal for Growth Tier 4

A December 18 Delmarva Now.com article discusses a proposal by the Wicomico County Council to allow certain landowners to opt out of being in Growth Tier 4 under the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 (the septic system legislation).

As part of that effort, the council wants to send postcards to land owners throughout the A1 zoned district except for those residents who have given up development rights, are in rural legacy programs or live within the tidal wetlands. Within those postcards, the council has discussed during a few meetings, they will ask if land-owners want to opt out of having their land within tier four.

There might be a problem with that, according to Maryland Department of Planning and Zoning Secretary Richard Hall.

“The law pretty much makes clear that agricultural zones are to be in tier four, and so to opt in or opt out is not what’s in the legislation,” Hall said. “Volunteering to follow a law is, to me, sort of like me volunteering to pick my speed limit on the road or like asking drivers if they want to opt in or out. The legislation makes it very clear areas that are zoned for agriculture or resource protections — those types of rural zoning districts — are to be in tier four.”

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  1. To the Honorable Secretary Richard Hall,

    To maintain the ascendancy of the Constitution over the lawmaking majority is the great and essential point on which the success of the [American] system must depend; unless that ascendancy can be preserved, the necessary consequence must be that the laws will supersede the Constitution; and, finally, the will of the Executive, by influence of its, will supersede the laws … — John C. Calhoun (1782-1850)

    I respectfully suggest Secretary Hall read the United States Constitution, and most particularly, the 14th Amendment, and explain how a “sudden-death” strangling of constitutional property rights based on De minimus claims of environmental protection and “sustainable development” is in any way Constitutional.

    In my judgment, as an elected official, SB236 contains provisions that are unconstitutional. We have precedent and processes for engaging in comprehensive rezoning. Claim what you want, but I say SB236 is a defacto rezoning without any comprehensive process.

    Yes, I know there are officials that will say, “But commissioner, we haven’t taken anyone’s rights, we simply placed environmental restrictions in place to protect the public welfare.”

    Save it for someone with “gullible” stamped on their forehead.

    If you take away a citizen’s right to inflate the tires in her car, you effectively strangle her right to drive;

    If you take away a citizen’s right to buy ammunition, you effectively strangle their Second Amendment Rights;

    And when you take away a property owner’s rights to employ septic systems in a rural area, you effectively strangle the 14th Amendment property rights of landowners… without ANY due process.

    Now is the time for public servants and state legislators to reconsider their legislative roles in the context of our Constitution as viewed by our founders and repeal this ill-conceived legislation.

    “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” – Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

    This debate and the elevated tension between the rural counties and the State is not ending. It is simply beginning.

    Commissioner Richard Rothschild

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