Equitable Solutions: A Better Way To Win Land Use & Environmental Disputes

The Old, Wrong Way

Here’s the all too common scenario.  Citizens learn a development project is proposed for their watershed.  It looks like the project may cause harm, but there’s only two weeks before the big hearing.  This leaves little time to understand the process, verify impacts or to research options for resolving negative effects.  So they do what far too many folks opt for: Hire a lawyer to kill the project.  After all, killing the project prevents all impacts.  And it seems to work because someone heard that another project was killed a couple of years ago.  From the citizen’s perspective, what could be better?  Well, nothing except this approach succeeds less than 5% of the time vs. 90% for the better way.  The wrong way also burns out volunteers, wastes limited funds, and gives citizens the inaccurate impression that government is in the builders’ pocket.

The Better Way

Rather than immediately hiring a lawyer and setting the adversarial process in motion, citizens first obtain the plans, identify potential impacts, consult with staff and other experts to determine if impacts are likely to occur, and for those judged real seek ways to resolve each impact, preferably in a manner that allows the applicant to get most of what they want.  This is the Equitable Solutions approach.  It frequently costs very little, inspires citizens to become active participants in watershed management, and leaves citizens feeling positive about how their local government functions.  An Equitable Solutions campaign can also use a single poorly designed project to improve environmental protection throughout a county, city or state.

Equitable Solutions is described in detail in How To Win Land Development Issues, a 300-page book free for download at: ceds.org/publications.html.  CEDS can also conduct an Equitable Solutions workshop in your area (go to end of this article for details).   In the meantime we offer the following Equitable Solutions How-To summary.  We’re also a phone call away (410-654-3021) if you have questions. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Why Citizen Oversight Is Crucial To Clean Water Law Enforcement

AverageCondition_May2013Since releasing the results of the Greater Baltimore Exposed Soil = Pollution Survey last week, I’ve received a number of messages from folks who do not understand why citizen involvement is essential to achieving a high level of compliance with Clean Water laws like erosion-sediment control.  The following true story shows why public support is essential to ensuring enforcement agencies have the resources needed to be effective, then creating a political climate where the agencies are allowed to enforce.  The success described below was not a fluke.  It has been repeated many times.  Now the challenge is to increase citizen involvement in all Clean Water law enforcement efforts in every watershed if we are to fully restore the Bay and the 57% of her freshwater tributaries that are unfit for our use (red-orange watersheds in map). Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Greater Baltimore Citizen Survey Finds Poor Construction Site Mud Pollution Control

BenSuzyWendy

Dr. Ben Fertig, Suzy Wald, Wendy Alberg Assessing A Construction Site For Compliance With Mud Pollution Control Laws

In June and July, 2014, 105 construction sites in the Greater Baltimore region were surveyed for erosion control quality by 33 staff and volunteers from 22 local, statewide or national organizations. We found that up to 89% of disturbed, construction soils could be fully stabilized (protected) from erosion through the use of straw mulch, grass or stone. However, only 23% of these soils actually were protected.  We are deeply concerned that the same may be true throughout much of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

ResultsGraphHarford County is achieving the highest stabilization rate (37%), followed by Baltimore City and Howard County (27% each). Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Carroll counties had the lowest stabilization rate (12% – 19%) with an average of 16%.

As a result of stabilization rates far below the 89% level, the mud pollution discharging from these sites is far above that allowed by State and local law as well as the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load document.  Mud pollution levels are also sufficiently high to damage the health of nearby waterways by destroying fish habitat and Bay grasses, carrying toxins and other contaminants, and contributing nutrients that result in algae blooms and dead zones in local creeks and the Bay. For each dollar spent keeping mud on the construction site with stabilization, we all save at least $100 in damages avoided. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Nottingham Ridge: An Example Why Bay Recovery Progresses So Slowly?

NOVEMBER 2014 UPDATE

In September Baltimore County finally directed the owner of the Nottingham Ridge site to halt erosion, but is unclear whether this applied to a couple of acres or all 23 acres of exposed soil on the site.  We are awaiting recent aerial photos to determine the extent of stabilization.

On October 21st Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge John Beverungen ordered Nottingham Ridge to comply with the 2000 Maryland Stormwater Design Manual.  As you will see in the graph below, this provides 70% of the benefits which would result from compliance with Environmental Site Design.

Nottingham Ridge, overall

Proposed Development at the Nottingham Ridge Site

Original Article: Nottingham Ridge is an 83-acre Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposed for a site adjoining Whitemarsh Run, in Baltimore County, MD.  The site also drains to the Bird and Gunpowder Rivers, then the Chesapeake Bay.  Presently, two office buildings occupy a small percentage of the site.  A development company is proposing to intensively build-out the site.

DSC04646

Muddy Water Discharged From Nottingham Ridge

The project would needlessly add a tremendous quantity of nutrients and other pollutants to the Gunpowder and Chesapeake Bay.  The site has also been needlessly discharging large amounts of muddy water (like that pictured to the left)  for more than a decade!  Why the emphasis on the word needlessly? Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Why Your Help Is So Urgently Needed: The 4th Street Rain Garden Saga

The 4th Street Rain Garden

The 4th Street Rain Garden

After 8 Months It’s Finally Restored

The following article was posted last March.  A few weeks ago the 4th Street Rain Garden was finally restored, thanks to the City of Annapolis.  So, one BMP restored; several tens of thousands in the Chesapeake watershed to go.

Restoring the Bay is dependent upon keeping thousands of Best Management Practices (BMPs) working.  The following article illustrates why this task cannot be accomplished without a tremendous increase in public participation.  It shows how even the most dedicated agencies cannot cope with a tremendous workload.  It also shows how even the most Bay-knowledgeable among us are not aware of this need, which speaks loudly to the need for better public education. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Challenges of Supporting Agriculture & Reducing Farm Pollution

Maryland and other Bay jurisdictions now require keeping cattle out of streams.

Maryland and other Bay jurisdictions now require keeping cattle out of streams.

In the 1970s I had the honor of serving on the Baltimore County Soil Conservation District Board of Supervisors.  I was the “urban” supervisor.  My four fellow Board members were farm owners.  At first our relationship was strained to say the least.  But as I came to understand the difficulties farmers faced and that they cared for land as much as me (perhaps more so), I developed a deep respect for these people and the dedicated, underpaid District employees who support the farming community.

There are 122 Districts throughout the Bay watershed who employ about a thousand people serving on the front lines of the effort to reduce agricultural nutrients and sediment while keeping farms in business.  However, excessive paperwork and a lack of enforcement authority makes the task of convincing farm owners to implement practices challenging, to say the least.  This is particularly true when those practices may not increase farm profits or could even cost the farm owner money.  To learn more about the vitally important work performed by the Districts, the challenges they face in restoring the Bay, and why it is critical that each of us actively support our local District (especially when local budgets are debated)  see: Don’t Fence Me In: The Race to Save Chesapeake Bay.

Posted in Uncategorized

MAPP Transmission Line Haunts Landowners & Ratepayers

PHITowerPhotoA few years ago CEDS helped organize a 40-member coalition of local, state and national organizations who had a number of very serious questions about a $1.2 billion, multistate transmission line project known as MAPP (Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway).  This project was mostly about opening up markets in New York and New Jersey to electricity produced by Midwest coal-fired power plants.  Had this and related projects been built it would have increased climate-changing gas emissions, increased electricity costs and arguably made our electric grid more vulnerable to outages.

We thought MAPP was defeated and gone for good in 2012.  However, a recent decision will require electricity customers in Maryland and 12 other states to reimburse PEPCO for $80.5 million in expenses for this failed project.  Also, large tracts of land in Maryland are held in easements obtained to construct the transmission line making it easier for MAPP proponents to resurrect this project in the future.

For further detail see PJM Consumers on the Hook for $80.5M for Failed MAPP Project.

Posted in Uncategorized