This issue of RIVERKEEPER’S COVE will be more serious than most. I usually try to write something that reflects our optimism about our efforts to restore and protect the Sassafras River, and at the same time make an effort to help the reader understand what a beautiful and precious resource we have right here on the Upper Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
This month I’m obliged to write about a more serious subject - the Growth Tier Map for Cecil County. County Executive Tari Moore submitted a Tier Map to the Maryland Office of Planning, just prior to the end of 2012 as required by SB236, “The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act”. The law requires certain areas of the county to be included in Tier IV – specifically, Priority Preservation areas, Rural Legacy areas, forested areas, and agricultural lands. The state informed the County that the submitted map did not meet these requirements, or the requirements of the Cecil County Comprehensive Plan.
In November, SRA and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, 1000 Friends of Maryland, Friends of the Bohemia, Elk and North East Watershed Association, Cecil Land Use Alliance, and several private citizens wrote a joint letter to the Cecil Planning Commission, where this proposal was first taken by the Cecil Planning Director, Eric Sennstrom. We all spoke to the Planning Commission on Nov. 21 with the goal of convincing them to send a recommendation to the Council to table the issue for a few months and form a working stakeholder group to develop an acceptable Tier Map. They Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of this sensible solution.
When the County Council held the public hearing on December 20, our group and several residents individually expressed our request to table the issue and appoint a Working Group of stakeholders to create an acceptable Tier Map. Several people also spoke against this proposal in favor of immediately accepting the current Tier Map into the Comprehensive Plan. The Council voted for the latter approach, dismissing both state law and the Planning Commission’s recommendation to table the issue, but amended the resolution by requesting that a Stakeholder Workgroup be formed to study the map and offer an alternative at a later date.
The December 21st edition of Cecil Daily News provides coverage of the Public hearing here.
We will continue to provide our members with updates to this issue as they become available.
So, as the year draws to a close, your SRA continues to be busy working to restore and protect our precious Sassafras River, and also helping to restore all the waters of Cecil and Kent Counties to better health. We have had many successes in 2016, and we’re hoping that 2017 brings even greater progress to our work.
We wish you and your family a happy and healthy Christmas and Holiday Season.
Thank you so much for everything you do to help us!
And I’ll see you on the river,
Capt. Emmett Duke