Volume 16, Issue 27 - July 3 - July 9, 2008

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Critical Areas’ Zero Tolerance
Begins in Anne Arundel

The labor of the Legislature is about to pay dividends for Chesapeake Bay, and Anne Arundel County is preparing to seize some of them for its citizens.

In some cases, the gifts may be hard to take.

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold declared that starting July 1, a “zero tolerance policy” would be in effect for homebuilders, home improvement contractors and tree-cutters doing their work in the county’s Critical Area.

Noting that past laws were tough to enforce, Leopold said he believed that new laws designed to protect the Bay from human activities along its shores would work as “a stronger deterrent.”

We applaud Leopold’s efforts, given the lackluster enforcement we have seen in both Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, particularly when it comes to developers.

Nonetheless, we are aware that the changes could be jarring to some folks, particularly homeowners and small-business contractors trying to make a living in these tough times.

As Leopold explained, starting this week, a contractor who does work on a home in the Critical Area needs a home-improvement license to build or improve a pier or dock, work on a bulkhead or to do erosion control work with stone revetments and the like.

In a shot across the bow, Leopold says that he will have inspectors primed to be watching and would not hesitate to recommend that criminal charges be filed by the state’s attorney.

That could complicate business mightily for some people and get in the way of projects to improve the homestead.

Leopold said that the county would begin an education campaign, which will provide an indication of his seriousness. His early vow and his plans to spread the word will set an example for other counties along the Bay, we hope.

We hope, too, that it won’t only be homeowners and working stiffs getting the eagle eye. Developers and operators who know how to play games with the system need special attention.

If regular folks see the big guys skirting the law, there goes any hope of people willingly embracing the new Critical Area rules. Thus the deterrence Leopold speaks of would be diminished.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.