County Commissioner Michael Dunn, in a surprise move Tuesday, urged his fellow commissioners to fight the state on the adoption of tier maps, a controversial measure Annapolis is requiring all counties to adopt by Dec. 31 in order to restrict growth to areas already served by public water and sewer, or planned to be served in the near future.
“After two public hearings the message seems clear to me,” said the usually quiet Dunn. “I say to hell with the maps and perhaps we should file a lawsuit against the state.”
The commissioners were gathered in the afternoon meeting, surrounded by copies of enlarged maps that had been under consideration to comply with a new state law coming out of Senate Bill 236 passed earlier this year, when Dunn made his announcement.
The board was expected to discuss public comment made at the nearly three-hour hearing last week to decide whether or not to alter Map 4 before sending it to the state for its comments and ultimately a final decision on which map should guide Cecil County’s future growth.
An overwhelming majority of the citizens who spoke on the topic last week urged the commissioners to fight the state on this issue, or at the very least, adopt the least restrictive map they could.
Map 4, which was the one being considered last week, put large swaths of county land into a Tier 4 designation, which would have restricted how many lots could be developed in future years and potentially devalued the land of most farmers.
“I don’t have a problem with getting together with other counties to pursue this, investigate it and analyze it,” Commissioner Robert Hodge said.
“But, I’d like to hedge our bets with a map that I could live with,” he said, pointing to Map 10. “I’m seeing Map 10 for the first time, and I think I could live with it.”
Commissioner Tari Moore said she’s talked with Wayne Stafford, president of the Cecil County Farm Bureau, about the possibility of litigation, but had some concerns because the state never used the word “shall” in the bill.
“But, I like both of your concepts,” Moore said. “I absolutely want to pursue this. I like the mixture of both your suggestions.”
Commissioner Diana Broomell said Cecil County is the first county to get maps done and the first county to encounter problems with the maps.
“If we adopt any tier map, it could be more stringent than our comprehensive plan,” she said. Broomell encouraged the board to join with the Maryland Rural Coalition to get their message out statewide.
“I’m on board with what you’re saying,” Commissioner Jim Mullin said. “The farm bureau said they’d stand behind us if we fight, so here’s your chance to swing the bat.”
“I never thought this mapping was needed for Cecil County,” he said, suggesting the board delay a vote on any map until they attend a meeting next Wednesday in Annapolis with other members of the Rural Maryland Coalition.
Hodge asked Planning & Zoning Director Eric Sennstrom to clarify the impact of property placed in Tier 4 in southern Cecil County.
Sennstrom said a property owner with 1,000 acres in the southern portion of the county would only be able to divide his property into a total of five lots, including his own home, if the tier maps are adopted.
The commissioners are planning to attend the rural coalition meeting Sept. 19 in Annapolis before they make their next move.