Worcester County, MD
 
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Added 3-8-1994 by Bill No. 94-2; amended 6-28-1994 by Bill No. 94-16; 1-10-1995 by Bill No. 94-25; 4-9-1996 by Bill No. 96-6; 3-17-1998 by Bill No. 98-1]

§ PW 5-301 Findings and requirement.

(a) 
Legislative findings. It is the legislative finding of the County Commissioners that it is necessary for the existing and future health, safety and welfare of the public in general that all sanitary facilities serving twenty or more single-family units or equivalent dwelling units in separate ownership, producing or designed to produce greater than 5,000 gallons per day of effluent or water, be provided through sanitary service areas where such facilities shall be owned and operated by the County Commissioners.
(b) 
Required. Except as provided for in Subsection (c) hereof, wherever sanitary facilities serve, or are proposed to serve, twenty or more single-family units or equivalent dwelling units in separate ownership, producing or designed to produce greater than five thousand gallons per day of effluent or water, a sanitary service area shall be required to be established in accordance with the provisions of this Subtitle.
[Amended 10-20-2009 by Bill No. 09-7]
(c) 
Exceptions. The provisions of this Subtitle shall not apply to:
[Amended 7-26-2005 by Bill No. 05-8]
(1) 
Sanitary facilities serving a shopping center as established pursuant to the Worcester County Zoning Ordinance of 1965, a planned commercial development established pursuant to the 1978 or 1992 Worcester County Zoning Ordinance of the Code of Public Local Laws of Worcester County, Maryland, or a unified development as defined in § ZS 1-103 and developed in accordance with § ZS 1-317 of the Worcester County Zoning Ordinance of the Code of Public Local Laws of Worcester County, Maryland, where the sanitary services provide or are designed to provide less than fifty thousand gallons per day and the leases place the responsibility for proper and legally required maintenance of sanitary facilities on the landlord.
[Amended 10-20-2009 by Bill No. 09-7]
(2) 
In condominiums, cooperatives, cooperative manufactured or mobile home parks, and cooperative campgrounds, where the recorded governing documents place the responsibility for proper, legally required management and maintenance of sanitary facilities on the governing body and the governing body is given the authority and power to collect funds in order to manage and maintain the facilities and where the construction of the sanitary facilities is accepted by the County.
[Amended 10-20-2009 by Bill No. 09-6]

§ PW 5-302 Definitions.

For the purposes of this Subtitle the following words and phrases shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them by this section:
DEVELOPER
A person or group of persons proposing the construction of sanitary facilities to serve land which is presently vacant and undeveloped.
EQUIVALENT DWELLING UNIT
A measurement based upon a structure or use, existing or planned, which produces the same amount of sewage flow or water consumption as an average single-family residence in the service area. Any single-family residence, not being used for any other purpose, shall be classified as one "equivalent dwelling unit" rating.
OWNERSHIP
Fee simple ownership, or a term of years in excess of seven years or renewable for seven years or more.
[Amended 7-26-2005 by Bill No. 05-8]
RATE PAYER
Any person receiving a statement for sanitary services pursuant to § PW 5-307. Each account regardless of number of persons liable thereon shall constitute one rate payer.
SANITARY FACILITIES
Facilities designed or constructed for the purpose of providing sanitary services.
SANITARY SERVICE AREA
A geographic area established pursuant to this Subtitle, or legally established by the Worcester County Sanitary Commission[1] and the Worcester County Commissioners prior to the effective date of this Subtitle, as a separate division of Worcester County in which sanitary services are or will be provided by the County Commissioners.
SANITARY SERVICES
Potable water production and distribution or wastewater collection and treatment. Sanitary services may, by resolution of the County Commissioners, include water for fire protection and the installation and maintenance of fire hydrants to provide fire protection for the service area or portions thereof.
[Amended 7-24-2001 by Bill No. 01-8]
SUB-AREA
A geographic area within a sanitary service area established pursuant to this Subtitle which may have separate debt or obligations and may have a different rate structure.
[1]
Editor's Note: The Sanitary Commission was abolished 10-5-1993 by Bill No. 93-19.

§ PW 5-303 Existing sanitary service areas and community shared facilities.

[Amended 7-26-2005 by Bill No. 05-8]
Existing sanitary service areas and existing community shared facilities legally established by the Worcester County Sanitary Commission[1] and the Worcester County Commissioners prior to the effective date of this Subtitle are hereby recognized and confirmed as sanitary service areas. For such service areas and facilities, the provisions of this Subtitle relating to the initial establishment of sanitary service areas and construction of facilities, for facilities already constructed, shall not apply. Except as hereinafter set forth all other provisions of this Subtitle shall be applicable to such existing service areas and community shared facilities. Nothing in this Subtitle shall affect any existing bonds issued by the Worcester County Sanitary District. Shared sanitary facilities or sanitary service areas previously established as such and legally existing as of the effective date hereof, and which are no longer required to be shared sanitary facilities or sanitary service areas, may be terminated by resolution of the County Commissioners.
[1]
Editor's Note: The Sanitary Commission was abolished 10-5-1993 by Bill No. 93-19.

§ PW 5-304 Sanitary service areas as special taxing districts.

Sanitary service areas shall constitute separate taxing districts for the purpose of collection of assessments and user fees for sanitary services provided therein. The County Commissioners may levy such assessments, charges and fees within individual sanitary service areas as the County Commissioners deem necessary and appropriate to provide water and sewer services within the sanitary service area. The County Commissioners may issue bonds to be paid from revenues of any sanitary service area and may pledge the full faith and credit of the county upon such bond. Funds collected within a sanitary service area shall be maintained in a separate enterprise fund and shall be used solely for sanitary facilities and services in such area.

§ PW 5-305 Sanitary service areas, sub-areas and amendments.

(a) 
Criteria for establishment. A sanitary service area may be created only if it can be demonstrated, and the County Commissioners find that the establishment is (1) necessary for the existing or future health, safety and welfare of the public in general or is in the best interest of the county at large, and (2) feasible financially and from an engineering standpoint. A sanitary service area may include non-contiguous parcels. Parcels wholly within the boundaries of a service area may be excluded from the service area.
(b) 
Procedure. The procedure for the establishment of a sanitary service area, sub-area or amendment thereto shall be as follows:
(1) 
Initiation of the process for sanitary service areas or sub-areas to be established or amended may be by petition or by action of the County Commissioners as follows:
A. 
By petition. The owner or owners of property may petition the County Commissioners for the establishment of a sanitary service area to serve that sub-area or amendment thereto. The petition must describe the geographic area proposed for the sanitary service area, sub-area or amendment. The petition shall be on such forms as prescribed by the County Commissioners and must be signed by not less than 67% of the property owners in the proposed service area, sub-area or amended area. The petition shall be accompanied by a plat of the proposed service area, drawings, maps, plans, studies, construction information and other information as may be required by the County Commissioners.
B. 
By action of the County Commissioners. If the County Commissioners determine that the establishment of a sanitary service area, sub-area or amendment thereto may be desirable in accordance with the criteria in this Subtitle, then the Commissioners may pass a resolution providing for an investigation of such proposed sanitary service area, sub-area or amendment.
(2) 
Action on Petition or Resolution. The Commissioners shall make an investigation and evaluation of the proposal set forth in the petition or resolution. In evaluating the proposal, the Commissioners shall consider the following:
A. 
Desirability of the facility for comfort, convenience, health, safety and welfare of the people who will or in the future may be served by the proposal.
B. 
Feasibility of construction and operation from an engineering standpoint as well as from an economic standpoint of the proposal.
C. 
Whether or not the proposal is in the best interest of the public health, safety and welfare of all residents of the county.
D. 
Whether or not the proposal will not be unduly detrimental to the environment of the county.
E. 
Whether or not the design and operation of any facility included in the proposal is in accordance with all required permits and applicable standards.
(3) 
Hearing. The Commissioners shall hold at least one public hearing on the proposed establishment of a sanitary service area, sub-area or amendment thereto which shall be advertised at least once per week for two consecutive weeks prior to the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of the proposed action. The public hearing may be held in conjunction with any other public hearing required for the approval of the proposal.
A. 
(Reserved)[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Former Subsection (b)(3)A, which provided special provisions for hearings in the Ocean Pines Sanitary Service Area, was repealed 9-16-2003 by Bill No. 03-9.
(4) 
Approval/Disapproval. Following the public hearing the Commissioners may approve the proposal and establish a service area, sub-area or amend the same by resolution. The resolution shall specify and include: (1) the name of the service area or sub-area; (2) a geographic description of the service area or sub-area; (3) a description of the proposed sanitary facilities and a plan and schedule for the construction of the facilities; (4) the number of equivalent dwelling units to be served in the sanitary service area or sub-area; (5) an allocation of the equivalent dwelling units for existing parcels and for parcels planned for development; and (6) such other matters as the County Commissioners may deem appropriate. A copy of the resolution agreement implementing same and a plat of the boundaries of the service area or sub-area shall be recorded among the land records of the county. The County Commissioners may deny the proposal if it is found that the proposal is not necessary for the existing or future health, safety and welfare of the public in general or if the proposal is not feasible financially or from an engineering standpoint. Should construction of any facilities fail to commence within ten years from the date of the resolution, the County Commissioners may dissolve the service area or sub-area as herein provided. The decision of the County Commissioners shall be final. The resolution shall establish a special taxing district.
(5) 
Cost and fees. In the case of a petition, all costs expended and fees, as from time to time prescribed by the County Commissioners, shall be paid by the petitioners at such time as demanded by the County Commissioners, provided, however, that the County Commissioners may determine that in a case where the petition is for the correction of existing conditions which are hazardous to the public health and the environment, the Commissioners may waive the fees or costs. In addition, the County Commissioners may pay such fees and costs and charge them to the service area or sub-area upon its establishment. Nothing herein shall preclude the County Commissioners from making other expenditures for studies or evaluations necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of the county and the environment.

§ PW 5-306 Services outside service area.

[Amended 8-16-2005 by Bill No. 05-11; 12-20-2005 by Bill No. 05-15]
(a) 
Extension of services outside service area. The County Commissioners may allow sanitary services to be extended outside the boundaries of a service area to provide service by contract to another sanitary service area, shared sanitary facility, County project or facility, as determined by the County Commissioners. In all such cases the recipient of such service shall fairly compensate the sanitary service area providing service for maintenance and operation cost and for a proportionate share of the value, as determined by the County Commissioners, of the sanitary facilities required to provide the service. In emergency circumstances, service may be provided to an individual property. In the case of providing service to an individual property, the Commissioners must determine that such service is required because of a bona fide health or environmental emergency. The procedure for providing service outside the service area shall be the same as the procedure for an amendment to a sanitary service area set forth in § PW 5-305 of this Article based upon a petition filed by the owner or owners of the property requesting service or by action of the County Commissioners. The County Commissioners, in order to provide service outside the sanitary service area by contract, shall make all of the factual findings required by § PW 5-305, and the proposal must meet with all of the requirements of this section as well as the requirements of § PW 5-305. In cases where services are provided by contract outside of a sanitary service area the County Commissioners may establish rates and fees at the time of the resolution providing for such service. Such rates may be higher or lower than the rate charged within the sanitary service area providing service as determined by the County Commissioners for good cause. All rates and fees shall be subject to the annual budgetary process of § PW 5-310.
(b) 
Temporary services. Upon a recommendation by the Department of Public Works, in cases where it is determined necessary, appropriate, or desirable by the County Commissioners, temporary treatment of wastewater generated in one sanitary service area may be provided in another sanitary service area and/or potable water may be supplied from one sanitary service area to another sanitary service area, provided such temporary arrangement does not exceed three hundred sixty-five consecutive days and provided an agreement shall be entered into between the service areas and executed on behalf of the County Commissioners by the Department of Public Works. No arrangement for inter-service area wastewater treatment or supply of potable water shall be made in cases where the wastewater treating area or potable water supplying area lacks sufficient capacity for such service.

§ PW 5-307 Construction of sanitary facilities.

(a) 
Construction by developer. Where the proposed sanitary facilities are intended to serve land which is substantially vacant and undeveloped, the developer shall be required to enter into an agreement with the County Commissioners to provide for the construction of the facilities. The agreement shall provide: (1) that the developer shall secure all necessary permits for the benefit of the county, and which may not be modified without the consent of the county, and shall construct the facilities in accordance with all required permits and applicable standards; (2) that the developer shall deed to the county free and clear of all encumbrances, at the time of the recordation of any subdivision plat or final approval of any site plan all parcels reserved for construction of sanitary facilities; (3) that the developer shall warrant the construction and performance of the sanitary facilities for a period of not less than two years from the date of acceptance by the county and shall post construction and maintenance bonds in an amount to guarantee the warranty which in the case of a maintenance bond shall be no more than 50% of the actual cost of all equipment; (4) that upon completion of the facility and final inspection, approval and acceptance by the county, the developer shall transfer all permits and all those portions of the facility which are not already county property to the county free and clear of all liens and encumbrances and the county shall then assume operational control of the sanitary facilities; (5) for a cash deposit, if required by the resolution establishing the service area, for not less than one year of operation including reasonable reserves for replacement; (6) such requirements for payment of contractors and suppliers as may be required; (7) for any construction bond required by any applicable law or regulation; (8) for any reimbursement to developer for service provided from the facility to third parties and any formula relating thereto; and (9) for such other matters as may be determined by the County Commissioners to be necessary and appropriate. The agreement shall be recorded in the land records of Worcester County at the expense of the developer. Any sanitary facilities constructed by the developer must be of such a capacity to provide service for each equivalent dwelling unit reflected on the developer's subdivision plats or site plans. The County Commissioners may require a developer to construct sanitary facilities of a size and capacity greater than that necessary to serve the proposed development when that additional capacity is needed to serve other existing parcels within the service area. In such a case, those existing parcels shall be established as a sub-area and the sub-area shall be liable for reimbursing the developer for its proportionate share of the costs of the sanitary facilities constructed by the developer.
(b) 
Construction by county. Where a sanitary service area or sub-area has been established, the sanitary facilities shall be constructed, expanded or upgraded by the county in accordance with the following procedures.
(1) 
The County Commissioners shall cause to be made such studies, plans and specifications as may be necessary to solicit bids and determine the actual cost for the construction and operation of the proposed sanitary facilities.
(2) 
The County Commissioners shall hold a public hearing on the cost of the project, which hearing shall be advertised at least once per week for two weeks prior to the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of the proposed service area. At the hearing the Commissioners may ask for the vote of each property owner in the service area as to whether the project should be constructed but shall not be bound by said vote.
(3) 
Following the public hearing the County Commissioners may approve or reject the project for construction. If approved, the County Commissioners may advance funds or may issue bonds as may be authorized by Public General Law, for the construction of the project. The costs incurred in constructing the project shall be considered a debt of the sanitary service area which debt shall be repaid through the levying of and payment of assessments as provided for in this Subtitle.
(c) 
Standards. The County Commissioners may, by resolution, adopt codes and standards for the construction, operation and use of sanitary facilities.

§ PW 5-308 Operation of sanitary facilities.

Sanitary facilities shall be operated by the Worcester County Department of Public Works, provided that the County Commissioners may contract with qualified private operators or enter into leases with private operators to operate sanitary facilities.

§ PW 5-309 Plat approval and building permits.

[Amended 7-13-1999 by Bill No. 99-4]
(a) 
Conditions of approval and permit issuance. No subdivision plat may be recorded or site plan finally approved for any development in a sanitary service area until the sanitary facilities have either been completely constructed and in operation or the construction is provided for by agreement with the County Commissioners and has been adequately bonded to the county. No building permit for any structure in a sanitary service area shall be issued until the county shall determine that the construction of the sanitary facilities is substantially completed as determined by the County Commissioners upon the advice and the recommendation of the County Environmental Programs Administrator and, if the facilities are being constructed by a developer, that the remaining work is adequately bonded to the county. No occupancy permit shall be issued for any structure in a sanitary service area until the sanitary facilities are completed and are operating to the satisfaction of the county and have been transferred to the county.
(1) 
Notwithstanding the provisions contained in Subsection (a) above, permits for no more than four model homes may be issued for any subdivision where the proposed water supply system and/or sewage disposal system have been approved by the Department of the Environment but not constructed, subject to the following:
A. 
The water supply system and/or sewage disposal system have been bonded in their entirety to the satisfaction of the County Commissioners.
B. 
There shall be no water supply extended to the model homes.
C. 
All plumbing shall terminate at the building foundation.
D. 
Model home owners/developers shall utilize the model homes only for display purposes and they must not be either sold or occupied for any purpose until the water supply system and/or sewage disposal system are available to serve them. Agreements to this effect must be signed by all owners/developers, contractors and lienholders and recorded in the land records of Worcester County.

§ PW 5-310 Budget, assessments and charges.

(a) 
Service area budget. The County Commissioners shall each year, by resolution, approve and adopt a budget for each service area which shall specify estimated expenses of the service area or sub-area and the assessment, user charge and accessibility rates, as well as any other authorized fees and charges, necessary to balance estimated expenditures. The County Commissioners may also approve and adopt such supplemental budgets and assessments and charges in accordance with the procedures set forth in this section, as may be necessary to meet emergency or unexpected conditions and expenses, including partial year budgets and levies. The expenses of the service area may also include a portion of any consolidated administrative, financial, engineering and maintenance expenses which are allocated to the service area on a proportionate basis.
(b) 
Assessments. The County Commissioners shall levy assessments by resolution on all properties within the sanitary service area or sub-area for the sole purpose of raising funds to retire any indebtedness of the service area or sub-area incurred for the purpose of acquiring or constructing sanitary facilities. The assessments shall be levied uniformly on an equivalent dwelling unit basis. If no new assessment is made, then the prior year assessment shall continue for the ensuing year. Each parcel within the service area shall annually, by resolution, be assigned an equivalent dwelling unit rating based upon its actual use or, in the case of vacant land, be assigned a one equivalent dwelling unit rating unless the vacant land has been approved for a greater number of equivalent dwelling units either by site plan approval, preliminary plat approval, or other development plan approval allowing for an allocation of water or sewer service, or other contracted agreement providing for water or sewer service, in which case the rating shall be based upon the number of equivalent dwelling units provided for in such approval, plat, plan or agreement. The County Commissioners may make adjustments in assessments in cases of lots which are determined by the County Commissioners to be lots not intended for sewer or water facilities or where water or sewer facilities provided in the service area or sub-area are not planned to be extended to such lot. In the case of unplatted areas subject to assessment on account of any such approval, the resolution may provide for a charge per equivalent dwelling unit of less than one hundred percent. The County Commissioners shall make a semiannual assessment levy, at one-half the annual rate, for parcels which first become subject to assessment or for which the equivalent dwelling unit rating is changed, after the beginning of the levy year and before the 180th day of the year. The assessment rate per equivalent dwelling unit shall be made each year, by resolution, such that the total assessment levy for that year is sufficient, but not in excess of the amount necessary except allowing for a reasonable reserve for uncollected assessments, to pay the indebtedness due for that year.
(c) 
User charges. The County Commissioners shall levy, by resolution, user charges for all customers in the service area or sub-area actually connected to sanitary facilities. The user charges shall be based upon the best available determination of the volume of water used or wastewater discharged. The user charges shall be set on an annual basis in an amount, when added to any accessibility charges collected, sufficient to pay all operating and maintenance costs of the sanitary service area or sub-area including reasonable reserves for replacements.
(d) 
Special service fees. The County Commissioners may establish, by resolution, and charge special service fees required to be paid for special services provided by the county. Such fees shall be based upon the cost to the county to provide any such service.
(e) 
Accessibility charges. Where the customer base is insufficient to generate sufficient user charges to reasonably pay annual maintenance and operation expenses, the County Commissioners may levy, by resolution, accessibility charges for all parcels in the service area which are not yet actually connected to sanitary facilities. The Commissioners shall classify parcels based upon the degree to which the sanitary facilities are considered to be readily accessible.
(f) 
Late fees and interest. The County Commissioners may also establish, by resolution, late fees and administrative charges required to be paid and interest charges for any assessments, charges or fees which are not paid in the time prescribed.
(g) 
Contract charges. Where there is an existing agreement as described in § PW 5-313 hereof with respect to sewer or water services in any service area, then in such event, any charges as agreed to, authorized by, or set forth in such agreement, including any charges agreed to be made to persons similarly situated and not parties to any such agreement and specifically including all charges included in an agreement between Worcester County Sanitary District, County Commissioners of Worcester County, institutional service corporation, Maryland Marine Utilities, Inc., and 589 Corporation, dated July 14, 1987, and all exhibits thereto may be made by the County Commissioners within that service area pursuant to such agreement. Any such charges authorized by an amendment to such agreement may also be made.
(h) 
Discontinuance of water services. If any bill for water service remained unpaid (1) after sixty days from the date of mailing for annual and semiannual bills; or (2) after thirty days from the date of mailing for all other bills, the department shall give written notice, left upon the premises or mailed to the last known address of the owner, that the water service will be terminated in ten (10) days and not reinstituted until said bill, late fees, interest and a reconnect fee of fifty dollars have been paid.
(i) 
Collection of unpaid charges. Unpaid assessments, charges and fees shall be collected in the same manner as real estate taxes, shall constitute liens in the same manner as real estate taxes, and shall be subject to all laws with respect to real estate taxes.
(j) 
Public hearing. Before adopting any resolution establishing or changing any assessment rate, user charge rate or availability charge rate, the County Commissioners shall hold a public hearing, which hearing shall be advertised at least once per week for two weeks prior to the public hearing in the area of the service area, on said rates at which hearing the property owners and customers shall have an opportunity to be heard regarding the service area budget or the proposed rates.
(k) 
Interim forms of assessments and charges. In addition to the other powers set forth in this section, the County Commissioners may, in lieu of assessments based upon equivalent dwelling units as provided for under Subsection (b) hereof, levy benefit assessments, in the West Ocean City Sanitary Service Area, for the year 1994/95, by resolution, based upon front footage in accordance with existing formulae or systems.
(l) 
Continuation of budgets and assessments. In the event the County Commissioners do not adopt a budget or make an assessment for a service area or service areas, the prior year budget and assessment shall continue for the ensuing year in that service area.
(m) 
Assessment appeals. Any person alleging an error in the application of the criteria or standards used in determining the number of equivalent dwelling units assessed, or in the calculation of some other method of assessment allowed under the provisions of this section, or the procedures adopted to implement the assessment system, shall be entitled to appeal, in individual cases, such assessments to the County Commissioners within such time periods and in accordance with such procedures as the County Commissioners may from time to time adopt by resolution. There shall be no appeal from the assessment methods or procedures. In the event of a reduction in assessment, the property owner shall be entitled to a refund for the then current year only.

§ PW 5-311 Dissolution.

Where the County Commissioners determine that a sanitary service area or sub-area is no longer necessary based upon the criteria set forth in § PW 5-305(b)(2)A through § PW 5-305(b)(2)E, the sanitary service area or sub-area may be dissolved in accordance with the procedures in this Subtitle for establishment.

§ PW 5-312 Additional provisions.

Nothing contained in this Subtitle shall be construed to limit or diminish any other powers or authority relating to the provision of water or wastewater service granted to the county under the Environment Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland or any other provisions of public general law. Where such other powers are in conflict with provisions of this Subtitle then the provisions of this Subtitle shall govern without any such limitation.

§ PW 5-313 Effect on existing agreements.

Nothing in this Subtitle shall abrogate or amend any such terms of any legally enforceable agreement entered into between any developer or sanitary service area and the Worcester County Sanitary District or the County Commissioners enforceable and in effect on the effective date hereof (including, but not limited to, the agreement made on the 25th day of November, 1997, by and between MH Utilities Corporation, Mystic Harbour Water and Wastewater Services, Inc. and the Worcester County Commissioners) to the extent that the provisions of this Subtitle are in conflict with matters specifically and directly addressed in said terms, otherwise the provisions of this Subtitle shall apply. Specifically, however, where such agreements provide for transfer of facilities, expansion of service areas, or service outside service areas, then the provisions of the agreement shall govern.

§ PW 5-314 Decision of Commissioners to be final.

Any person who has been denied a permit, license or approval by any county department or official acting pursuant to this Subtitle may, in writing within 30 days of such action, apply to the County Commissioners for a review of such action. The Commissioners shall provide the applicant with a right to be heard thereon upon at least 15 days notice. The decision of the Commissioners shall be final and not subject to any appeal to any board or court.