House Bill 1253 – another state hammer

If you own property along the shores of Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic Ocean, you might want to pay attention. Not satisfied with the amount of regulation already in place for development in those areas considered “critical areas”, the General Assembly (with the backing of the O’Malley Administration) is looking to really put the screws to both landowners and local jurisdictions by expanding both the area placed under these restrictions and the power of the state to control how smaller units of government enforce these laws.

First of all, I need to thank “The Waterman” for bringing this item to my attention. HB1253 passed its second reading (as amended) on March 18 so the final vote will likely be cast next week in the House of Delegates. There are three things that strike me as being onerous regarding this bill:

  • The bill changes which areas are deemed to count toward the percentage of lot coverage guidelines. Where the standard is now simply impervious surfaces such as the house or building, pavement, sidewalks, and the like, the new standards change the definition to lot coverage, which also includes items like overhanging balconies or decks.
  • For subdivisions, the new proposal expands buffer areas threefold, from 100 feet to 300 feet.
  • Most troublingly, enforcement of these laws is changed so that each violation is a separate offense and each day the violation exists is also a separate offense. This is so that fines and penalties can be ratcheted up more easily and you know it’s all about money to the state.

One thing I found intriguing (but not surprising) in the bill’s original fiscal note is that about 1/9 or 11% of the state falls under the critical area guidelines as currently written. Of course, within that 11% falls practically all of the state’s most desirable real estate so the impact on people in my profession is most profound. It’s another layer of red tape that we have to deal with in creating good projects for those who wish to develop their land. While some jurisdictions are fairly by-the-book strict, others tend to be a little more reasonable in allowing flexibility with what can be placed, and still others pretty much allow anything. This bill attempts to eliminate local judgment calls, which is unfortunate because a few bad apples spoiled a good thing.

Finally I noticed that this bill, which wasn’t introduced until February 8th, sailed through the process with a reasonably speedy hearing – unlike a certain other bill for which I submitted written testimony. Of course, the O’Malley Administration is foursquare behind this proposal which helps but the reason it wasn’t introduced until later in the process is that the bill reflects a study done by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that wasn’t completed until last month. And whatever the CBF wants, the environmentalists in the General Assembly are sure to try and give it to them.

I’ve said it before – in most places those who favor bigger, more intrusive government sell their programs by telling us, “it’s for the children.” In Maryland, the appeal that can sell almost anything is telling residents “it’s for the Bay.” House Bill 1253 is yet another example and despite my objections I’m betting it’ll be law by midyear.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.

6 thoughts on “House Bill 1253 – another state hammer”

  1. THANK YOU for noticing. I think Marylanders are asleep. You can’t tell me there aren’t residents out there sitting on property within the critical area who are hoping to plop down a nice retirement home within the outrageous 300 foot buffer! How sad it is for those individual private property owners paying mortgages on these properties only to find out they will be worth nothing in about 6 months and they will probably still be paying a high tax rate on undevelopable land. I guess everyone is too busy working OR the state has done a nice job disguising “stealing property owner’s rights” as “protecting the bay”. Not to mention that a bill like this will only assist in breeding more corruption. WAKE UP MARYLAND!

  2. As a landowner with waterfront property in the critical area, i am more than concerned ( I am also in the process of a subdivision). BUT, LET’S GET OUR FACTS STRAIGHT.

    As a staunch democrat, I voted for Governor “Owe” Malley. It was the biggest mistake in my voting career. But I digress.

    The “facts” here are unclear because the counties are scrambling to find out how they should implement them. But, as it stands, the July 1, 2008 changes are only to affect “resourse conservation” areas, particularly areas zoned RC-8. So DR-zoned areas are yet to be determined. Therefore, people with lots of record around the Chesapeake, namely people with small amounts of waterfront land to be developed or redeveloped, are not the ones being targeted here. This bill, from what I have been told by numerous sources, including DEPROM, real estate professionals and local politicians, is targeted at landowners on the Eastern Shore with land in RC areas who might try to subdivide in the future.

    What bugs me is that people, with a lot of help from the Baltimore Examiner are all in an uproar before they get the facts. This legislation is literally in its infancy and we do not know who it will effect or how it will morph and be implemented down the road. But people like to stir up shit and the Examiner even speculated that land-owners with 1/4 acre will have their property rendered worthless by this legislation. That is wholly unsupported by any facts at thsi point.

    I mean, let’s look at this realistically. Why would the State destroy a substantial portion of its tax base with this legislation? That would not make sense.

    Either way, people need to know the facts before they start on some baseless tirade. Yea, I think O’Malley is the worst governor in Md history, but people need to know what exactly is happening before they react in an ignorant fashion. People need to act as citizens first; then as political animals. These knee-jerk, politically-motivated comments serve nothing but the ego of the commentator. Grow up and get your facts straight or just zip it.

    The problem is that noone knows how this is going to play out over the next several years. But, as a homeowner on the water, I am going to move as fast as I can in developing the property. This HB 1253 has a number of other sections that re-define impervious surfaces and might even ban things such as rip-rap bulkheads.

    The bill also passed with record speed because O’malley has mobilized the Democrat troops in the General Assembly. It hit the floor in February; for God’s sake.
    I want to preserve the Bay as bad as the next guy but ti seems that O’Malley is rushing through legislation before implementation is even a consideration. He is doing this so that he can hold himself out as the great savior of the Bay. What a bunch of horseshit politics. The State and Countuy agencies who will deal with this are understaffed, under-financed and bursting at th seams. He is also proposing putting much of the future dvelopment into the hands of the Critical Area Commission which will be equally ill-equipped to implement this plan (or so I surmise).

    If anyone has any accurate information to disseminate about this legislation, please respond. The rest of you should resaerch and wait.

  3. I’m sorry it took you a month and a half to respond. But I make my living from development and as far as I can tell, this is the beginning of a slippery slope. Remember, the original bill wanted a 100 foot buffer area and the “compromise” was 200 feet. So the land grabbers got part of what they wanted and next time around they’ll get the rest – they’re patient like that. Unfortunately those on my side, the side that respects private property rights and, despite the claims to the contrary, want a solution to keeping Chesapaeake Bay clean that is fair to all sides, we seem to be happy that they “only” extended the buffer inward to 200 feet.

    And did I not predict that it would become law?

  4. It took me that long to respond because, a month ago, my response would have been pure speculation a/k/a bs. I always make it a point to educate myself before I open my mouth on a subject. Even at this stage, the speculation and bs continue. And FYI, the original buffer proposal was 300ft; not 100 ft (probably just a typo). And although it is true that this bill has become “law”, the devil is in the implementation.

    I did have another conversation today with one of my local politician’s staff and, from what they told me, this bill will primarily effect RC-8 zones. So, the 200 ft buffer, at this point, only effects those zoned areas. Most of us fall into Limited Development areas and Intense Development Areas. This new legilsation does not place a 200ft buffer in those areas. But it does put other restrictions on these areas as they pertain to impervious surfaces, bulkheads, etc. And like you said, they could very well see how far they can push us on this one in future Assembly sessions (it wouldn’t be the first time).

    They also informed me that, if plans are filed before 10/1/08, you are still under the old regs. Also, building permits need to be pulled by 2010. So, if you truly believe that this slope will get slippery (which I wouldn’t doubt), start moving now.

    Also, Michael, my nasty comments in the last e-mail were not directed towards you. They were directed towards these other fools who complain based upon pure speculation from reading a couple of paragraphs. Their comments also stem from their political leanings and hatred for this new administration. Like I said before in so many words; speak to the issue or simply shut up. I do want to thank you for getting this information out there so that people can actually educate themselves.

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