Two issues more than others highlight the divide between urban/suburban and rural jurisdictions in Maryland: transportation funding and septic systems.
In the case of the former, rural officials say a disproportionate share of state funding goes to mass transit, which their folks don’t use or want to pay for. In the case of the latter, the same officials say the state is trying to undermine their local authority to do what they want with their land.
Only about half of Maryland’s 23 counties, Baltimore city and 110 other municipalities have complied so far with a state requirement that their officials assign a “tier” classification to their land, under the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012. The resultant map will mark conservation areas where major subdivisions are prohibited, where sewer systems must be used and where septic systems may be employed. Without an approved map the local government cannot give the go-ahead to a subdivision of more than seven units served by septic tanks and fields.
In addition, some of the tier maps that have been turned in — they were due Dec. 31 — are “problematic,” according to the Maryland Department of Planning. In response, the state is weighing its options. One unseemly possibility is that the state will sue a jurisdiction or join in an advocacy group’s lawsuit.
As the melodrama between state and local, often rural, officials continues, it behooves local authorities to draft suitable maps. Just as they have road projects prioritized if and when state transportation money becomes available, so they need to be ready to act as the septics battle plays out.