SALISBURY – The Wicomico County Council has announced a public hearing regarding the complex septic bill that could affect the value of many rural properties within the county will be held next month.
In its last couple of discussions regarding Senate Bill 236, known as the septic bill, the council has established a public participation program to notify rural property owners about the potential impacts associated with the ongoing legislation.
Property owners in the R1 Zoning District that fit certain criteria, such as those who do not fall under the wetlands district and those who own over two acres, should be expecting a postcard asking for their participation.
The postcard will read, “Land records indicate your ownership of property within the Agricultural Zones area. The Bill may limit the number of residential septic systems that may be located on your property. In addition, this legislation may impact the future use and value of your property.
The Council is accepting and considering requests to be removed from the area proposed for limiting septic systems. Requests from property owners may be submitted to the Wicomico County Dept. of Planning and Zoning, PO Box 870, Salisbury, MD 21803 or at the upcoming Public Hearing.
The Wicomico County Council will be holding a Public Hearing on Feb, 20 at the Midway Room in the Civic Center beginning at 6 p.m. for obtaining public comments on this matter. Information about the Septic Bill can be found on the County website at www.wicomicocounty.org or by contacting the Salisbury-Wicomico County Dept. of Planning, Zoning and Community Development at 410-548-4860. Your participation is encouraged.”
On Feb. 1 the Maryland Secretary of Planning will meet with the Senate to report on the septic bill’s progress so far on a municipal and county level.
“It is not a date where he [Secretary Richard Hall] or the Senate expects maps have been adopted and submitted as a progress report,” Wicomico County Administrator Wayne Strausburg said.
Strausburg said his feeling is that the secretary and the Senate both expect the counties to develop their tier map through thorough public discourse.
“I can tell you that I was sitting almost immediately adjacent to Secretary Hall at MACO [Maryland Association of Counties] and Cecil County put their map up on the PowerPoint screen and I can tell you that his visible reaction was one that would not serve this county well, and the map that we currently have looks very much like Cecil County’s map,” Strausburg said.
He suggested Wicomico County send forward a letter to the local delegation, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch and Hall that would give a thorough overview of the process the county has made so far to demonstrate the good faith effort being made to comply through a public process.
“I think that will serve you better than to send a map that is quite frankly going to be viewed by them as a poke in the eye,” he said. “I think they understand that this is not an easy process and I think if we send a well thought out letter demonstrating that we are undertaking a very serious evaluation, doing our best to put forward a map that we believe represents the best interest of the county and our citizens, I think that is what they are looking for.”
The council instructed the administration and staff to move forward in drafting such a letter to send forward demonstrating the county’s process in forming a Tier map.
The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 requires counties to make a number of changes to their subdivision codes, including the adoption of a four tier system for categorizing the development of land in the county and the determination of the type of sewerage system that will serve the subdivisions in the tiers. The tier assessment comes as part of Senate Bill 236.
Tiers II and III would allow major subdivisions to be built on septic systems in either a limited capacity or after a public hearing and approval of the Planning Commission, respectively.
Tiers I and IV would not allow any major subdivisions to be built on septic systems. Some counties, such as Worcester, could take advantage of an exception based on dwelling unit density that would remove the restrictions from Tier IV. But while Worcester will almost certainly qualify for the exception, it seems unlikely that Wicomico will receive the same.
Each county is responsible for designating its own tiers. Once the jurisdictions have created a map, the next step is to forward it on to the Maryland Department of the Environment for review and comments. Once the final tiers have been confirmed, the county would then adopt the map.