The Maryland Department of Environment’s (MDE) decision to control the proposed development of Lakeside by permitting 100,000 gallons per day, instead of 540,000 gallons, is a partial victory for opponents who successfully lobbied MDE to reconsider its initial decision. The proposed 2,500-unit development will proceed more slowly, if not at a smaller scale.
The song goes on. Controversy will continue. The Talbot Integrity Project (TIP), led by Dan Watson, still has an ongoing mission to deter over-development in a county on the cusp of being overrun by an onslaught of housing growth.
Tomorrow’s Talbot County Council election assumes greater import in light of the MDE decision. Should five Democrats win seats on the council, Lakeside will face a more restrictive future than charted by the current council led by Republican Chuck Callahan, a proponent.
Should voters elect Michele Dappert, Keasha Haythe, Phil Jackson, Scott Kane and Pete Lesher, the county council could decide to accept the Planning Commission’s opposition to Lakeside and set a new course against development detrimental to a rural county. Simply, out-of-scale residential communities will not pass muster should the newly elected county council pay greater attention to the Planning Commission and Comprehensive Plan.
As I have previously written, county residents would benefit from Dappert’s enthusiasm and tech know-how; Haythe’s business development experience and grounding in the community; Jackson’s expertise in community activism and information technology; Kane’s proven success as an entrepreneur, civic leader and local government leader (mayor of Chevy Chase) and Lesher’s highly respected reputation throughout the county as the longtime curator at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Easton town councilperson and county council member for the past four years.
A tidal wave of fresh faces (except Lesher) would change county government for the better. That said, I believe that a conservative attitude toward taxes and spending would persist. I do hope, however, that the new council would loosen the stranglehold posed by the harmful tax cap.
While I appreciate that Republicans Lynn Mielke and David Montgomery also oppose the harvesting of homes on productive farmland, I find their political positions on public school education troubling and unhealthy for Talbot County.
The battle over Lakeside is not over. The MDE decision reduces the allowable sewage discharge. It does not halt construction. The developer has spent 20 years and significant money to advance this project. It will not cease its efforts. My guess is that Rocks Engineering, based in Tysons Corner, Va., will seek phased-in sewage discharge permits to achieve its goal of 2,500 units.
Election results are unpredictable. An all-Democratic county council, comprising members who campaigned against Lakeside and growth spurts in other parts of Talbot, will be expected to support the planning commission. While I am not at all skeptical, candidates-turned-elected officials often change their minds under the pressure of governing—and hitherto unknown information.
I dearly hope for the sake of a county under bombardment of growth missiles that the council holds steady. Their voters would expect that.
Readers who have not voted, please do. You have time. Your vote counts. A few votes might separate winners and losers. That frequently happens.
Democracy is always on the ballot. Civic engagement—typically characterized as heavy voter turnout—is a powerful force. We all have that clout. It is too precious to relinquish.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.