Stream easement criticized Lawyers, surveyors say plan is unclear


A proposal to require protected areas around streams that run through new subdivisions in Carroll County came under fire from lawyers and land surveyors yesterday.

The three lawyers and two surveyors who testified at a county planning commission hearing on proposed changes in subdivision regulations also criticized some language as unclear; predicted that the changes would replace the commission's discretion with rigid rules; and said that they felt left out of the drafting process and had learned of the proposed changes too late to suggest alternatives.

The commission agreed to circulate draft copies to all holders of county development review handbooks for written comments. The commission suggested that representatives from development-related businesses work out proposed changes with county planning staffers before bringing the regulations back for a planning commission vote.

George A. Lahey, deputy county attorney, characterized the current batch of proposals as primarily housekeeping.

"Most of these changes are simply written codification of things that are already in planning commission [practice]," he said.

The lawyers who testified all said they were not representing clients at the public hearing. But all three have represented developers before the planning commission.

The proposal to establish 100-foot protected areas on the sides of streams running through subdivisions attracted strong opposition.

Attorney Clark Shaffer said that the required easement, or area where permanent construction is barred, could be interpreted to mean, "A child couldn't go down and build a sand castle by the stream." He said that existing forest preservation easements appear to make it illegal to build a treehouse in a woods covered by an easement.

Commission member Dennis Bowman said that stream easements are needed because the yearlong subdivision regulations study turned up streams unprotected by any state or county agency, despite their location in the Chesapeake Bay drainage area.

Richard Hull, president of a surveying service, recommended letting the county environmental staff negotiate stream protection easements with developers rather than setting a flat minimum.

Lawyer David K. Bowersox said a section dealing with general easement requirements on land being subdivided and adjoining land could be subtitled "the attorneys' full employment act" because of its lawsuit potential.

He said the wording was unclear on what a landowner who wants to subdivide would have to provide in easements not only on his own property, but on adjacent property.

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