Cumberland Times-News

December 7, 2012

Garrett adopts latest tier map for SB 236

Maryland mandate creates three areas for septic systems

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— OAKLAND — Garrett County commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the latest version of a tier map required by Senate Bill 236 that will limit where major subdivisions with septic systems can be located.

The bill “has been the elephant in the room for a number of months now,” said John Nelson, director of the Department of Planning and Land Development, during the county meeting Tuesday.

“The statutes set up a mandatory program — that counties must adopt tier maps if they are going to allow residential subdivisions on septic systems after Dec. 31, 2012, and the only tier in which those types of new subdivision activities can occur are in tier three areas,” Nelson said.

Senate Bill 236, or The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, which was passed by the Maryland General Assembly, outlines certain mandates for all jurisdictions to regulate new subdivision activity, particularly residential growth areas that are on septic systems, according to Nelson.

“This is something that most rural jurisdictions fought last session tooth and nail but the bill did pass,” said Nelson.

The planning commission, along with Deborah Carpenter, geographic information system specialist, worked with the Maryland Department of Planning on the tier map.

The tier one areas of the map under the statute portray areas of the county already served by public sewer, tier two is for future sewer areas and tier three is for rural development areas where public sewer is not planned and that aren’t dominated by agricultural or forest land cover.

The only area where septic systems for major subdivisions, which are defined as eight lots or more, can be developed is in tier three, according to Nelson. 

MDP provided comments on the tier map, some of which pertained to areas left open in Crellin and Hutton, which the planning commission had designated as tier three areas.

“We are providing justification to MDP as to why those areas should be tier three. Likewise, the Keysers Ridge interchange. That is an area that MDP believes has significant forest cover, but yet a lot of the land there is fragmented,” said Nelson. “Of course, we have an industrial park there; we want to provide an opportunity for people to live near where they could work.”

The other major category that MDP commented on is south Deep Creek, which will automatically become a tier two area when the county completes the Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan next year, according to Nelson.  

“The bill has the unattended consequences of fragmenting properties into larger lots, which is contrary to the whole smart-growth principle,” said Nelson. “We have been fighting pretty much tooth and nail trying to counter the comments that have been made by MDP.”  

Commission chairman Jim Raley questioned what the procedure is for changing the tier map.

“It can be amended virtually at will, as long as it is consistent with the criteria in the bill up until the point it’s incorporated into the county’s comprehensive plan,” said Nelson. “After it is incorporated into the comprehensive plan, it’s a much more onerous and tedious amendment. If the map is not adopted, that means there cannot be any major subdivisions created on septic systems.”

It would take 60 days to change the tier map after it is incorporated in the comprehensive plan, according to Nelson.

The next update on the comprehensive plan will be toward the end of 2014 or beginning of 2015.

In other commission news, some residents have expressed concerns about the Nov. 30 deadline for waiving the landfill tipping fee for yard debris. Cleanup following Superstorm Sandy is still ongoing, according to Raley.  

“We will have to work with some of the towns if they were not able to complete their work,” said Raley. “I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t extend that for the towns.”

The county landfill took in 560 tons of yard debris and there would have been a charge of $25,205 if there had been a tipping fee.

“The nice part is we did not use up landfill space for that,” said Raley. “They were able to legally burn on-site.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at