- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 14, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The Court of Appeals has rejected a request from the state of Maryland that it reconsider an earlier decision that officials say seriously weakens a law regulating shoreline development around the Chesapeake Bay.

The state’s highest court had ruled in July that Wicomico County could not require Edwin Lewis to relocate some buildings he had constructed without proper permits near a tributary of the Nanticoke River.

In a ruling issued Friday, the court refused the request from the Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission that it limit the impact of the July decision.

Environmentalists and local government officials sided with the state, saying the court’s action would weaken protection of land in a 1,000-foot buffer zone around tidal waters.

Judge Dale R. Cathell said that the state failed to make its case for a new hearing.

Local government officials and environmentalists now will look to the legislature to amend the law to restore some of the protections erased by the appeals court decision.

“We would encourage the legislature this session to immediately put the legislation in place to override this decision,” said Theresa Pierno, a vice president with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Otherwise, it’s going to make it very difficult for local jurisdictions to have the enforcement ability they need to deny variances.”

Talks already have begun on legislation that could be submitted when the 2004 legislative session convenes in January.

After the ruling was issued in July, environmentalists and county officials decried the decision, saying it would weaken local government zoning powers.

Martin Madden, appointed chairman of the critical area commission by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., agreed and supported the motion to ask the court to revise its ruling.

“There is a great deal of concern at the commission and in the environmental community about its impact,” he said.

The decision removed the burden on landowners to prove that development would have no adverse environmental impact. It also requires local governments that deny permits to prove that property development would cause damage.

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