(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is encouraged by a recent Anne Arundel County Board of Appeals ruling that makes it clear Critical Area protections will not be trampled for the benefit of private land owners.
The Feb. 13 ruling by the Board of Appeals denied a variance request by a property owner near the Severn River. The owner was attempting to construct a new house, garage, driveway, and pool that would total about 7,000 square feet of impervious surface adjacent to Hopkins Creek and Round Bay in the Critical Area. The proposed new buildings would replace current structures on the site that total about 1,400 square feet.
Maryland’s Critical Area law generally prohibits construction within 100 feet of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries’ tidal shorelines. The Board members wrote in their ruling that the owner didn’t establish a need for the increased impervious footprint of the proposed house and that building the home adjacent to steep slopes in the Critical Area would increase runoff and negatively impact water quality and habitat.
The Board’s ruling noted, “The Critical Area Program is not designed to grant property owners their dream home, the Program is designed to protect the Bay for the public good.”
An attorney for CBF, as well as the Critical Area Commission, Anne Arundel County, and local landowners, testified against granting the property owner the variance during the Board of Appeals hearings. CBF hopes the Board’s decision in this case can serve as an example to other jurisdictions weighing construction proposals in the Critical Area.
The 100-foot Critical Area buffer is a key bulwark in protecting the Chesapeake Bay from pollution largely caused by development. The buffer reduces runoff that contributes nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment to the Bay. It also reduces erosion and stabilizes the shoreline as well as provides habitat for animals.
In response to the ruling, CBF Litigation Staff Attorney Brittany Wright issued the following statement:
“Strong Critical Area protections are key to improving the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay. We can’t make exceptions when the requirements for the variance aren’t met because we know that over time those exceptions will allow more polluted runoff to reach our waterways. Decisions upholding Critical Area protections like this one add up to cleaner water across the region.”