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Growth Tiers

Growth Tiers: Maryland’s Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act
What are Growth Tiers?

The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, Senate Bill 236 (a.k.a. Septic Bill), was passed by the Maryland General Assembly during its 2012 session. The Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) states in its implementation guidance document for the Act that: “The goal of the law is to limit the disproportionate impacts of large subdivisions on septic systems on our farm and forest land, streams, rivers and Chesapeake and Coastal Bays.” 

The Act applies only to residential subdivisions, not to commercial, industrial, or other non-residential subdivisions. The Act sets forth four areas, or "Tiers," with the primary goal of precluding major residential subdivisions with septic systems in the most rural Tier (Tier IV).

“Four Tiers of land use categories are created to identify where major and minor residential subdivisions may be located in a jurisdiction and what type of sewerage system will serve them” (Implementation Guidance for The Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, Maryland Department of Planning, August 1, 2012). 

In brief, the Act defines and describes the characteristics of the Growth Tiers:

  • Tier I: Areas already served by public sewerage systems and mapped as a locally designated growth area, or is  or a municipality that is a Priority Funding Area served by public sewerage systems. In Tier I, a residential subdivision plat may not be approved unless all lots are to be served by public sewer.
  • Tier II: Areas proposed to be served by public sewerage systems or mapped as locally designated growth areas.
  • Tier III: Areas planned and zoned for large lot or rural development. They are not planned for sewerage service and are not dominated by agricultural or forest land. They are also not planned or zoned for land, agricultural, or resource protection, preservation, or conservation.
  • Tier IV: Areas not planned for sewerage service and which are planned or zoned for land, agricultural, or resource protection, preservation or conservation; areas dominated by agricultural lands, forest lands or other natural areas; Rural Legacy Areas, Priority Preservation Areas or areas subject to covenants, restrictions, conditions or conservation easements for the benefit of, or held by a state agency or a local jurisdiction for the purpose of conserving natural resources or agricultural land .

A residential major subdivision in a Tier III area may not be approved unless the local jurisdiction's planning commission has reviewed and recommended approval of the major subdivision in the Tier III area. Before recommending approval of a proposed major subdivision in a Tier III area, the planning commission shall hold at least one public hearing.

In a Tier IV area, only minor subdivisions are permitted. No residential major subdivisions are permitted in Tier IV.

Until a local jurisdiction adopts Growth Tiers, the local jurisdiction cannot approve the creation of residential major subdivisions  which are not served by public sewer.  The County can, however, approve major subdivisions served by public sewer and minor subdivisions served by public sewer or private systems.


Zoning Ordinance Changes Resulting from the Act

On December 4, 2012, the Board of County Commissioners approved amendments to the definition of major and minor subdivisions. Minor subdivisions, which are reviewed by staff, are now defined as the creation of seven (7) or fewer lots. Major subdivisions, which are reviewed by the Planning Commission, create eight (8) or more lots. The number of lots is counted from October 1, 2012. There were no changes to density standards.

Growth Tier Mapping in Calvert

On January 29, 2013, the Board of County Commissioners held a joint public hearing with the Calvert County Planning Commission to consider adoption of a Growth Tier Map. The map proposed in 2013 was not adopted.
Link to Growth Tier map proposed January 29, 2013 (updated May 28, 2014 to show County Tiers only, not municipal Tiers).

The updated draft Growth Map (dated May 10, 2016) is under consideration by the Calvert County Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners. Staff memorandum to the Planning Commission regarding the proposed adoption is available online.

The Board of County Commissioners will hold a work session on the proposed adoption of the Growth Tiers on May 24, 2016, in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room in the Courthouse, 175 Main Street, Prince Frederick. Check the Commissioners’ agenda to confirm the time. Watch the meeting online (live or recorded).


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