Earlier this month, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced new policies that strengthen protections for the county’s sensitive environmental areas. The policies require the location of wetlands to be verified before development plans are reviewed and require developers to minimize and mitigate environmental impacts. Pittman announced the new policies at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation building in Annapolis, which is surrounded by sensitive wetlands.
“Wetlands are critical for water quality and wildlife habitat, and once they are destroyed, they are gone forever,” said County Executive Pittman. “That is why we must protect our wetland areas early in the site development process. Our constituents expect us to enforce our environmental laws, not delegate that responsibility to the developers.”
The new policies direct the County’s Office of Planning to carefully review the locations of environmental resources on a site, and scrutinize all requests for modifications – or waivers to environmental protections – that would impact those features. Developers seeking modifications must justify why protections should be waived, and how they plan to mitigate environmental impacts. Any modification request that does not provide mitigation for proposed environmental impacts will be denied.
County Executive Pittman was joined at the event by other environmental leaders, including Lisa Feldt, Vice President for Environmental Protection and Restoration for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“Healthy estuaries are the first line of defense for coastal areas against climate change,” said Ms. Feldt. “They soak up storm surges, filter pollutants, and reduce tidal flooding. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation supports efforts to protect and restore them as well as other natural filters.”
These policy changes do not require legislation or code changes. Rather, the County Executive issued a memo to County departments issuing guidance on stronger enforcement of existing laws. The stricter policy was recommended by Anne Arundel County’s Environmental Policy Director, Matt Johnston.
“We have robust environmental laws on the books, but they do little good if they are not enforced in the right way,” said Mr. Johnston. “These policies are a big first step toward better enforcement. ”