Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program gives presentation during Bush River Community Council's September meeting

After taking a brief hiatus in July and August, the Bush River Community Council was back in full swing Monday evening at the Anita C. Leight Estuary Center.

Denise Lynch, administrative specialist for the comprehensive planning division for the planning and zoning department, spoke before the board to inform residents about a new county-instituted sign removal program that would be volunteer-based.

The voluntary sign removal program will have residents from various communities go out to designated sites during certain times, and then report back to the county who will then send a follow-up letter to the individuals or businesses responsible for the sign. Signs obstructing rights of way or on median strips and are illegally placed on county and state roads would be removed. These include old yard sale signs, parks and recreation (cheerleading camps, football teams, etc.) and others. Election signs have their own set of rules and regulations, Lynch explained, and would not be removed.

The program will go into effect Oct. 1, which is also when a state sign removal program will begin. The people who place the signs will not be fined under the county program, but will under the state.

"What about the signs that go up and never come back down?" board member Larry Carmichael asked, citing a billboard advertising a community on Route 40 that has fallen down halfway. Lynch responded that signs that have been placed legally with a permit will remain. The program, she said, is strictly limited to the removal of illegal signs.

Carmichael stated that he felt if a business puts up a sign "they should be responsible for taking it down" once it is outdated and/or old.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs asked about signs put up by Realtors for open houses. She was concerned about the impact removing their signs may have on an already unstable real estate market. Lynch couldn't say for sure if these signs would be removed, but said if they obstruct rights of way or are placed without a permit, then there's a good chance they could be.

Lynch said a press release will be sent out later this month, as well as posted on the county's website with more information and how residents can volunteer.

Chesapeake Bay Critical Area

Pat Pudelkewicz and Bryan Lightner from the environmental planning section of the county's planning and zoning department gave a presentation on the rules for managing a critical area.

Lightner explained the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program helps protect and conserve wildlife, as well as the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. To do this, the program "regulates construction and other land use activities on lands near tidal waters," according to the county's website.

The program is required by Maryland state law and was updated in February. The program applies to all land within 1,000 feet of tidal waters and wetlands along the bay. Areas regulated by the program are most of the Susquehanna River's shoreline, the Chesapeake Bay, Swan Creek, Bush River and Gunpowder River.

The critical area is divided into three land use management areas: intensely developed areas, limited development areas and resource conservation areas.

Each area is based on its development conditions before Dec. 1, 1985.

Additional development is OK in intensely developed areas, but the water quality must be improved with a 10 percent nutrient reduction, as determined by the program. Trees, shrubs, grass swales and rain gardens are examples of plantings that would help improve water quality.

In limited development areas, new development is allowed, but impervious surfaces, such as gravel driveways, must be limited. Water quality also must be maintained at the same level it was before construction.

Resource conservation areas limit additional development to one house per 20 acres.

If a person lives in one of these land use management areas, it is OK to mow their land and prune trees (Lightner said pruning is defined as removing no more than one-third of the tree). If there are any questions about pruning, removing or adding trees or shrubs, residents can contact the environmental planning section, 410-638-3103.

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