State’s New Tier System Not Expected To Impact Resort

OCEAN CITY – The so-called “septic bill” has been causing heartburn among a number of legislative bodies across the state, but as far as Ocean City is concerned there is no problem.

During the 2012 General Assembly session, the Sustainable Growth & Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, also known as the “septic bill”, was approved.

The bill addresses the proliferation of residential, large-lot sprawl on farm and forest land and the related problems of bay pollution and rising public infrastructure costs.

The law establishes four tiers of growth of areas that will be served by public sewer and those employing on-site waste disposal, or septic, systems.

Four Tiers of land use categories were created to identify where major and minor residential subdivisions may be located in a jurisdiction and what type of sewerage system will serve them.

Tier I areas are currently served by sewer, Tier II areas are planned for sewer service, Tier III areas are planned for future growth on septic and is the only tier where major subdivision on individual onsite septic systems are only permitted, and Tier IV areas are planned for preservation and conservation and prohibit residential major subdivisions on septic.

Rural counties are up in arms with the act because they feel the law discourages growth and development. For example, in Tier IV areas only minor subdivisions are permitted. Some counties may be able to permit major subdivisions in a Tier IV area if they can meet strong protection requirements.

The local jurisdiction is entitled to define the number of lots permitted in a major or minor subdivision by Dec. 31. If the jurisdiction chooses to provide a new definition of a minor subdivision, the number may not exceed seven. If a local jurisdiction does not define a major or minor subdivision prior to the deadline, then a major subdivision will be considered five or more new lots.

This week the Ocean City Mayor and Council quickly deliberated the acceptance of the delineation of the state-designated Tier One map.

“It addresses future development in Ocean City,” planner Bob Nelson explained. “Since we don’t have agricultural land, we don’t have to address these issues, and we are therefore simply being designated as a Tier I area. We are served with all public sewer and no private septic systems.”

Ocean City will automatically be considered a Tier I area due to the entire town being served by existing public water and sewer service.

According to the Town of Ocean City, the Maryland Department of Planning is aware that the town’s future growth is bound by its borders and that redevelopment is the development pattern for the future. A map has been created showing Ocean City’s municipal boundaries as a Tier I designation.

Local jurisdictions should map Tiers by Dec. 31. Once the Tiers are adopted administratively, it must be incorporated in the next update of the local comprehensive plan.

Firs,t the Mayor and City Council voted unanimously to approve the map that designated Ocean City as a Tier I area. Next, the council voted unanimously to accept the Tier I service area map as outlined in the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012.