New State Law to Restrict Residential Development Served by Septic Systems

July 1 is Deadline for Grandfathering Projects Under Current Regulations

PRINCE FREDERICK, Md. (June 20, 2012)—On July 1, a new state law takes effect that sets restrictions on residential development served by septic systems in a bid to reduce pollution and meet federal Clean Water Act limits on pollutants reaching waterways. The measure requires counties to identify areas where septic systems are most appropriate and sets a July 1 deadline for grandfathering residential development projects under current regulations.

The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 aims to move septic growth away from areas where it will contribute to pollution and limit the impacts of large subdivisions using septic systems. The law establishes four tiers of land use to identify where residential subdivisions may be located and what type of sewerage system will serve them:

-- Tier I areas are currently served by sewerage systems; major and minor residential subdivisions will be served by public sewerage systems.

-- Tier II areas are planned to be served by sewerage systems; residential major subdivisions will be served by public sewerage systems. Septic systems are allowed for residential minor subdivisions but are considered interim systems until public sewerage systems are made available.

-- Tier III areas are planned for future growth of major residential subdivisions with septic systems.

-- Tier IV areas are planned for preservation and conservation; no residential major subdivisions are allowed.

Calvert County planning staff is working on a draft tier map to show the locations of tiers in the county in order to give clear guidance to developers and property owners. The final tier boundaries must be adopted by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

Planning staff is also working to identify possible text amendments that could result from the new regulations. For example, the state defines a minor subdivision as one with a maximum of seven lots while Calvert County defines it as maximum of five. The BOCC would also have the final decision on text amendment revisions.

The legislation contains a grandfathering provision in order to properly track new subdivisions impacted by the law. Under the provision, July 1, 2012 is the deadline to submit a percolation test application to local health departments for a subdivision or to prepare a sealed and dated concept plan for a proposed subdivision. Projects that have either item completed prior to July 1 will not be covered by the regulation.

An overview of the law and its implementation is available at More information on Maryland efforts to meet Clean Water Act guidelines through the state’s Watershed Implementation Plan is available at For further details, contact Jason Dubow, director of the Maryland Department of Planning’s Environmental Planning Division, at 410-767-4500. For more information on local effects of the law, contact the Calvert County Department of Community Planning and Building at 410-535-1600 or 301-855-1243, ext. 2356, email or visit online at

Source: Calvert Co. Government

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