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Volume 15, Issue 22 ~ May 31 - June 6, 2007


Bringing Down the Hammer

The state of Maryland’s emphatic NO last week to a huge development on an island just east of the Bay Bridge was a bigger deal than you might think.

In denying a wetlands permit to developers for their Four Seasons mini-town of 1,350 homes, the Board of Public Works served notice that it was willing to yank zoning control from localities.

That’s the sort of decisive action that we — and Maryland environmental voters — have advocated for some time, and we applaud Gov. Martin O’Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot, who took a stand worth noting in the board’s 2-1 vote against granting a wetlands permit critical for the mega-development to proceed.

Said Franchot: “My goodness. The Bay is dying.”

The main shortcoming of Maryland’s Smart Growth law (remember it?) was the state’s inability to prevent counties from making development decisions that would harm the Bay. Presented with pitches from big-time developers about jobs and tax revenues, county officials’ backbones can turn to jelly.

That was certainly the case in Queen Anne’s County, where warring local officials had found themselves tied up in legal knots and unable to do their jobs of overseeing the development.

In the past, Maryland state government has been less than eager to jump in when communities flounder. Perhaps things have changed. Maybe it has sunk in that the Bay’s precarious condition has a lot to do with localities — and not just on the Eastern Shore — failing to think beyond development to how we sustain it.

More Bay-choking nitrogen and chemical pollution would have flowed from those thousand-plus lawns. The tailpipe pollutants from all those extra cars would have spelled more trouble.

While we may cheer the defeat of big-money developers and their patently unwise plan, many living along the Bay also will be feeling the sting of new restrictions.

We’re seeing it in Anne Arundel County where the new county executive, John Leopold, promises to clamp down on leaky septic systems and liberties taken over the years by folks who live in critical areas.

The state’s bold decision had an impact on plans for 1,350 homes.

The next bold decision may affect two homes: yours and ours.

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