A Kent County News report on August 23 was headlined: “County to ease enforcement in Critical Areas” and reported the County Commissioners had voted to “order the planning office to stop issuing fines for what they see as lesser violations of state Critical Area regulations.”
Commissioner Ron Fithian initiated this action by trivializing fines issued for two Critical Area violations, claiming, “This is petty stuff,” and adding, “This makes no sense.”
I disagree. Protecting the Chesapeake Bay is not “petty stuff.” As every landowner in the Critical Area knows, their property is subject to extra regulations that aim to shield the Bay from further degradation. If these owners flout the law, they’re likely to find themselves facing a fine, and rightly so.
The commissioners’ vote to weaken Critical Area enforcement should concern everyone. But, here’s the rest of the story.
To an inquiry from me, an assistant attorney general at the Department of Natural Resources replied: “While Kent County has some discretion in enforcing its Critical Area program, any changes to this provision of the County’s Critical Area program must be submitted to the Critical Area Commission for review and approval.”
The letter further states: “At this time, however, the County has not submitted any text changes to the Critical Area Commission for review or approval. Furthermore, the County has continued to effectively enforce its Critical Area program by citing violations when they occur in the Critical area and continuing to assess fines.”
So, for now, fines remain in force and Bay protections are intact.
Grenville B. Whitman