As expected, his bill, SB236, has drawn flak from developers and some rural politicians who charge it would stifle growth and cripple local economies. But it also ran into some criticism Tuesday before the Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committe in
Sen. Ronald N. Young, a Democrat representing
That measure would have banned any new major housing projects on septic systems, but it died in committee. So O'Malley appointed a broad-based task force to wrestle with the issue, and it recommended a more flexible approach, with septic-based development essentially barred in remote farming areas or "tiers" but still permitted in or near municipalities and other designated growth areas.
Young said it appeared the governor's bill, instead of curtailing housing projects relying on septics, would instead allow dozens of new subdivsisions with up to 10,000 homes on septic around
Others, including a representative of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the mayor of Vienna, a small
O'Malley countered that after getting blocked by rural opponents last year he was seeking what he called "a consensus bill" this year. "The bill introduced last year was criticized as going too far," he said. "This bill is not intended to be a limitation on how much better county zoning could be. It's intended to be a guide and a floor."
The Maryland Association of Counties objects to the added authority the governor's bill would give to state agencies to scrutinize local development plans. In prepared testimony, Leslie Knapp Jr., the group's deputy director, said the seeming flexibility in the tiered approach might be negated by state officials second-guessing local decisions. He said the powerful local government group would oppose the bill unless it is amended to address its concerns.
The bill drew support, though, from a pair of Eastern Shore small-town mayors, and from one farmer who's served in local government and says she's seen how ineffective it is at controlling sprawl.
Mayor Gee Williams of Berlin in
"We know where Berlin begins and where it ends, and we want to keep it that way," he said.