Worcester Plans Septic Hearings

SNOW HILL — Land owners in Worcester County worried about what the adoption of a new state-wide septics bill could mean for their properties will have multiple opportunities to meet with county zoning officials next week to air any concerns they may have.

“We’ll have all of the maps available and staff available to answer questions,” said County Director of Development Review and Permitting Ed Tudor. “For any written comments, we’ve set-up an email address.”

There will be three separate information sessions in the county. The first will be Monday, Nov. 26 from 5-7 p.m. at Pocomoke High School. The second will be Tuesday, Nov. 27 from 5-7 p.m. at Stephen Decatur High School. The final session will be Thursday, Nov. 29 from 5-7 p.m. at the Worcester County Recreation Center. Additionally, Monday, Dec. 3 through Friday, Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. information and staff will be available in Training Room A of the Worcester County Government Center.

The Worcester County Commissioners were unanimously behind the series of public information sessions since many of them have already fielded calls and emails from concerned constituents.

“There’s still a lot of confusion about Tier I, Tier II, Tier III, and Tier IV,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley.

Shockley asked Tudor if some type of handout outlining the characteristics of each tier would be available during the sessions.

“We’re finalizing the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) brochure,” Tudor replied.

The brochure will go through the bill and its effects “step by step by step,” said Tudor.

Shockley also asked if a comparative report would be available showing property owners how the adoption of the bill will specifically affect their property.

“Do you have a before and after version?” he asked. “I’m not too sure that people knew what they had before the bill was passed and what they don’t have after the bill was passed.”

Tudor explained that he did not go into all of the specifics with the brochure since trying to do so would make the document “longer than the bill.” However, he was confident that the FAQ should cover the majority of questions and concerns for all residents. And for anything that isn’t covered in the handout, Tudor reminded the commission that he and his staff will be available to speak directly with individuals.

Land owners in Worcester have shown various degrees of unease over the last few months once information on the new state septics bill became available. Designed to cut down on pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by tightening restrictions on how new major subdivisions can operate on septic systems, Senate Bill 236 has received some praise from environmental groups but even louder condemnation from developers and county governments across Maryland.

The bill calls for land in Worcester to be classified into one of four “tiers.” Each tier would have different restrictions on whether or not a new major subdivision can be built upon that particular parcel of land with a septic system or not. It should be noted that Tudor and his department believe that Worcester will be eligible for an exemption regarding Tier IV, one of the most restrictive tier in terms of development.

If the bill is adopted, the county will be responsible for dividing its own land, though the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) will comment on the map. If the county chooses not to adopt the bill by Jan. 1, no new major subdivisions on septic systems will be allowed.