Upcoming MPT Special Reveals Critical Area Flaws

Little Dobbins Island As the Maryland General Assembly meets to debate new, stricter regulations on Chesapeake Bay waterfront development, Maryland Public Television (MPT) will air a new program that examines Maryland’s Critical Area Law.

"Weary Shoreline," a documentary about the failure to enforce Maryland's Critical Area law, airs at 9 p.m. Wednesday night. For a preview of the show, check out Tim Wheeler's post on the Baltimore Sun's News & Environment blog.

One prime example of the Critical Area law's "death by one thousand cuts" is back in the news. Just last week, David Clickner, owner of Dobbins Island, resurrected plans to build a 4,500-square-foot home, septic system, and road on the island--plans which violate Maryland's Critical Area law but which Clickner has received variance approvals for from the state.

Fervent discussion over HB 1253—set for General Assembly debate February 28 (the day after Weary Shoreline’s premiere)—is expected. Among several proposed changes to this controversial law, the bill mandates that new development (including houses, outbuildings, decks, patios, driveways, landscaping and swimming pools) be even farther away from the bay shoreline than the current 100 feet. Instead, the inner Critical Areas shoreline buffer would be expanded from 100 feet to 300 feet.

Saving the Bay from the Bench

Nanticoke_015_3 Excerpt of a Baltimore Sun Op/ed written by Kim Coble, Executive Director of CBF's Maryland Office.

When citizens want to change how the government protects the environment, they generally work toward changing legislation, regulations or government leaders. Rarely do people think about judges.

But they should.

Maryland's judges are thoughtful people whose primary experience is with criminal and business law. But they are often unaware or insufficiently educated about the environment and the laws meant to protect it. Too often, these judges do not have a fundamental understanding of the complexity and importance of our natural resources...Lacking a larger understanding, they can be overly sympathetic to claims that protecting our water, air and land should be subordinate to an individual's property rights...As a result, in recent years, we have seen cases in which the legislature had to go back and rewrite legislation to repair damage done to environmental laws through misinterpretation by the court system.

...The courts and other judicial institutions (as well as many local planning offices) have chosen to ignore the cumulative impact of the next shopping center, apartment complex or industrial park. Each case is reviewed independently, and thus the courts look only at the impact of just this "one" case: One parking lot. One gazebo. One bed of underwater grasses destroyed. One wetland lost.

It's an argument developers routinely deliver, with amazing success. But the cumulative effects of these "ones" is death by a thousand cuts for our environment, our rivers and streams, and our bay.

...Sadly, the cost of mounting a legal challenge to each case is beyond the financial ability of most citizens. And special-interest organizations, willing to act on behalf of concerned individuals, are rarely even allowed to appear because of an overly narrow interpretation of who has "standing" - that is, who has the right to appear before the board or court.

...Judges who respect our natural resources and the common good, who have a demonstrated record of protecting the public interest, can help preserve and restore the land, air and water that belong to all citizens.

Maryland has good environmental laws. They could be stronger, but even the strongest and most well-crafted laws are only as good as those who enforce them.

Read the complete Op/Ed here...and recommend it when you're done.

Worried About Growth in Your Area?

Choosing_our_communitys_future Smart Growth America has two new resources available for the regular citizen who cares about the direction his or her community or region is taking in regard to growth. The "Choosing Our Community's Future" guidebook, available for $10, teaches how to make compelling arguments against poorly conceived plans and how to paint your vision for others. Smart Growth Shareware will be added to your purchase at no additional charge. This great resource includes publications, presentations, websites, and more information about topics including public health, children and schools, land conservation, water, transportation and more.

Dobbins Island Boat Parade Scheduled for Sept. 1

Dobbins Island

CBF and the Magothy River Association are sponsoring a boat parade and rendezvous to support the purchase of Dobbins Island and its consolidation as a port for the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

When: Saturday, September 1, 2007 @ 1pm
Where: Parade starts near Henderson Point in the Magothy River and will progress along the channel to Dobbins Island
Why: An opportunity now exists to purchase Dobbins Island and consolidate the Island, beach, sandbar and anchorage as a port for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Making this Historic Island an open space park is a better use of Critical Areas.
What: From 1 to 4 pm MRA volunteers will hand out petitions and educational materials to passing boaters.
RSVP: Contact Paul Spadaro, President Magothy River Association at president@magothyriver.org 

Stafford Officials Urge Public to Brush-up on Bay Preservation Act

via The Free Lance-Star

After a June training session on how the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act affects Stafford County and how the county affects the bay, the Stafford Board of Zoning Appeals is appealing to the public. Officials are urging residents to familiarize themselved with local ordinances based on the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and to let the Department of Code Administration know if they see a violation of the Act. Contact the county Planning Department at 540-858-8668 to find out what is allowed. For information on Resource Protection Areas in the tidewater area, call 800-243-7229.

Maryland Virtual Lobby Day tonight at 6pm

Please join CBF — from the comfort of your own home or office — tonight for Virtual Lobby Day to show your support for the Green Fund. We'll let you know during Virtual Lobby Day how to contact your legislators via e-mail or phone, and give tips on how to discuss the issue with them. We'll also answer any questions you have about the Green Fund so you can communicate with your legislators as effectively as possible.

Del. Maggie McIntosh clarifies Green Fund questions

"Worcester County Commissioners were incorrectly advised that the Chesapeake Bay Green Fund bill ignores the coastal bays due to its focus on the Chesapeake Bay, and also places rural counties at a disadvantage....

"More than 50 percent of Green Fund dollars will go back to local governments. In Worcester County these dollars can be used to assist the county and its cities -- including Snow Hill, Pocomoke City, Berlin and Ocean City -- with Smart Growth planning, incentives and grants for housing, and other pollution-reducing strategies, which will benefit communities as a whole and the coastal bays adjacent to Ocean City."

So says Del. Maggie McIntosh in her response to the Worcester County Commissioners vote to oppose the Chesapeake Bay Green Fund(The Daily Times)

Forum on Balance and the Bay set for March 3

Join Southern Maryland politicians, policymakers, and academics this Saturday (March 3) at St. Mary's College of Maryland for a public forum to discuss "Finding a Balance: Growth and the Environment in the Chesapeake Bay Region." The daylong symposium will begin at 9 a.m. in the Campus Center's Cole Cinema. (Southern Maryland Online)