State delays OK of critical areas law Panel concerned about exemptions


A state panel postponed approval yesterday of Anne Arundel County's critical areas law, citing concerns that it exempts some subdivisions that are on a waiting list for sewer connections.

Assistant Attorney General George E. H. Gay said in a memo to the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas Commission that the exemption in the county law does not adequately reflect state law, which does not contain such an exemption.

The commission is to vote at its November meeting on regulations the County Council adopted in August to protect the shoreline and other environmentally sensitive areas.

The commission notified the county in April 1992 that 22 provisions in its critical areas program conflicted with state law. More than a year later, in June, the commission invalidated portions of the county's program and gave it 90 days to draft a new law that corrected the deficiencies.

During that time, the county did not approve new grading or building permits within the habitat protection area, which includes everything within 100 feet of the water, nontidal wetlands and nesting areas for endangered species and some other birds.

Yesterday, commission member James E. Gutman, who chaired a subcommittee considering the county's law, said most of it met with approval.

"It seems to do the job," he said. "We've got one remaining issue, and we need 30 days to resolve it."

The county approved subdivisions on the Broadneck peninsula under its previous regulations, but developers have not been able to build because they were waiting for sewer service.

County officials argue that, although the subdivisions themselves have been approved, they either will have to abide by the new, stricter, critical areas regulations when they apply for building or grading permits or obtain a variance from the county's administrative hearing officer.

"Any new building permits or grading permits must comply 100 percent with the new guidelines, or they don't build," assistant county attorney Jamie Insley told the panel.

In addition, if the state panel invalidates the section in the county's law that allowed for the approval of these subdivisions, it will, in effect, invalidate the subdivisions, said Michael Leahy, the county's land use coordinator. That will lead to problems when the property owners try to obtain bank loans or attempt to sell their property, he said.

After the meeting, Thomas C. Andrews, who oversees county departments on land use and environmental issues, complained that the delay "doesn't make a lot of sense."

"I'm anxious to work with the commission to resolve any concerns they have with this one issue so we can get on with it in November," he said.

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