Chesapeake Bay Critical Area

Chesapeake Bay Critical Area

WHAT IS THE CRITICAL AREA?
The Critical Area is defined as those lands around the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries that are measured 1,000 feet from the edge of tidal waters and tidal wetlands in the State of Maryland. The City of Havre de Grace Critical Area designations are IDA (Intensely Developed Area) and RCA (Resource Conservation Area). These mapping designations were assigned as of December 1, 1985 with the State’s initial mapping and was based on existing land use at that time. Unlike other jurisdictions, the City does not have any mapped areas designated as LDA (Limited Development Area).

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE CRITICAL AREA?
The Critical Area was developed as a resource protection program to minimize the adverse effects of human activities on water quality and natural habitats in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters. It is a regulatory framework that was created by the State of Maryland to foster consistent, uniform and more sensitive development activity within 1,000 feet of tidal waters. Though the Critical Area is mandated by the State, it is tailored to local circumstances and administered through the City’s Department of Planning.

HOW DOES THE CRITICAL AREA IMPACT ME?
The Critical Area regulates what land disturbance or development can occur within 1,000 feet from the Chesapeake Bay and tidal waters. All private projects in the Critical Area – large and small – require review by the Department of Planning including individual building permits, subdivisions, site plans, tree removal, and shoreline erosion control. Public projects are also required to adhere to Critical Area regulations and are reviewed by the State’s Critical Area staff. Even beneficial shoreline restoration projects or invasive weed management must be approved by the Department of Natural Resources before work commences.

WHAT IS REQUIRED IF YOU ARE IN THE CRITICAL AREA?
What is required depends on the scale of your project and whether it is located close to the shoreline in the 100’ Buffer. There are guidelines for mitigation based on the amount of new impervious surface, or building cover, being constructed on a site even for small projects. For instance, a detached garage would be reviewed for its square footage of new impervious surface and would be required to have native plantings installed on-site to offset the impact. Larger projects require greater mitigation and creative solutions, such as installation of pervious pavement, bio-swales, or engineered infiltration for nutrient reduction from stormwater runoff.

WHAT IS THE 100’ BUFFER?
The 100’ Buffer is the first one hundred feet of land area immediately adjacent to the water’s edge. It is considered a habitat protection area where special attention is focused due to its proximity to tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Due to the intensive nature of development when the City’s program was first created, IDA portions of the City are identified entirely as Modified Buffer Area, or MBA, which allows for a reduced setback to tidal waters. Community-specific application of State requirements for those areas adjacent to tidal waters is in the City’s Critical Area program and includes mitigation for new or redevelopment activities that occur on lots or parcels identified as Modified Buffer Areas.

HOW DO THESE REGULATIONS RELATE TO STORMWATER MANAGEMENT AND THE FLOODPLAIN?
The Critical Area overlaps with stormwater management, floodplain, and in some cases Maryland Department of the Environment regulations, such as shoreline projects where there may be in-water as well as land-based disturbance. These layers of regulations may be confusing to property owners within the Critical Area, but they work in tandem to ensure protection of water quality, habitat, or in the case of floodplain, human safety. For larger development projects, there are specific stormwater management requirements – known as the 10% Rule – for treating stormwater runoff to meet requirements of phosphorus (a keystone pollutant) and nutrient removal within the Critical Area.

STATEWIDE CRITICAL AREA MAPPING UPDATE:
The Department of Natural Resources Critical Area Commission is in the process of updating their maps statewide. These map updates are based on improved shoreline and tidal wetland delineation and will allow for alignment with digital iMap information and consistency across the State. Information about this effort can be obtained by the links below.

IMPORTANT LINKS FOR THE MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES CRITICAL AREA COMMISSION:

General information:
https://dnr.maryland.gov/criticalarea/Pages/default.aspx

Mapping Update Project information:
https://dnr.maryland.gov/criticalarea/Pages/map_update.aspx

Statewide Critical Area map viewer:
http://webmaps.esrgc.org/cbca/desktop/Map

Video on Critical Area Mapping Update:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE9RMesEVsE&feature=youtu.be

The Critical Area Buffer:
https://dnr.maryland.gov/criticalarea/Pages/buffer.aspx

Critical Area 10% Rule Guidance Manual:
https://dnr.maryland.gov/criticalarea/Documents/10_percent_rule/manual.pdf

CONTACTS AND RESOURCE LINKS FOR THE CITY OF HAVRE DE GRACE:
If you have any questions about the City’s program or the State’s Critical Area mapping update, please call the Department of Planning at 410-939-1800. The following staff members will assist you:
Colleen Critzer, Permit Technician – permitting questions or requirements
Marisa Willis, Planning Technician – development review and small project mitigation
Dianne Klair, Planner – local regulations, project mitigation, and State digital mapping

Chapter 49 Critical Areas, City of Havre de Grace, eCode360: https://www.ecode360.com/8367355

Havre De Grace Critical Area Screenshot

Red areas are designated as IDA (Intensely Developed Area).
Green areas are designated as RCA (Resource Conservation Area).
Red line denotes the City’s current authoritative boundary.
Black dashed line is the proposed boundary based on new shoreline and tidal wetland mapping.