Vol. 27, No. 6 ● June 19, 2019
Anne Arundel County Tightens Environmental Review Process
In May, Anne Arundel County issued three policy memorandums that will significantly change the environmental review process for site development in the county. Since these memoranda seek to enforce environmental laws that are already in place, they do not require legislation or code changes but will result in the Office of Planning and Zoning (OPZ) interpreting the County Code more strictly in order to protect environmental resources.
#1: Memorandum Regarding Verification of Non-Tidal Wetlands and Buffers
The first memorandum requires the developer to obtain verification of the non-tidal wetlands and buffers from Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) before any subdivision or site development plan can be submitted to the Anne Arundel County OPZ, and that any Subdivision or Site Development Plan applications that contain either wetlands or buffers include evidence of this verification.
#2: Memorandum Regarding Minimizing Environmental Impacts through the Modification Review Process
The second memorandum instructs OPZ to carefully scrutinize any major or minor modifications that include environmental impacts – for example, wetlands, 25-foot wetland buffers, streams, stream buffers, specimen trees, etc. A modification request will not be approved unless there is a defensible justification; and if approved, all impacts must be mitigated in a manner decided by the OPZ officer.
The County noted that modifications related to stormwater, water quality improvements projects, utility infrastructure, or transportation may be granted more flexibility in the review process than development-related projects.
#3: Memorandum Regarding Modification Process and Procedures
Finally, the OPZ issued a third memorandum to the Maryland Building Industry Association (MBIA) and review agencies that defines changes to the modification application process – clarifying that each individual modification request must now be submitted under its own application, and multiple requests can not be combined under a single application. This change will apply to any new modification request or existing modification that amends a request submitted on or after July 1, 2019 (Fiscal Year 2020).
Wetland Studies and Solutions can help determine how these policies of heightened enforcement may affect your projects within Anne Arundel County. Please contact Mike Klebasko in our Maryland office to discuss how these changes will impact your projects.