Charles County, MD
 
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Amended 10-25-1994 by Ord. No. 94-93; 11-21-1994 by Ord. No. 94-99; 2-10-1998 by Ord. No. 98-59; 8-20-2001 by Ord. No. 01-75]
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
A. 
The purpose of the Critical Area Overlay Zone is to establish special regulatory protection for the land and water resources located within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area in Charles County. Land use development standards and requirements established herein are intended to foster more sensitive development activity for shoreline areas and to minimize the adverse impacts of development activities on water quality and natural habitats. This chapter implements the Charles County Critical Area Program and the requirements of the Maryland Critical Area Law and the critical area criteria and is adopted pursuant to the Natural Resources Article, Title 8, Subtitle 18, of the Annotated Code of Maryland, and COMAR 27.01 through 27.03, the Critical Area Criteria.
B. 
The requirements of Article IX supplement the County's land development codes, including existing zoning and subdivision provisions. They impose specific regulations for the development and other land use within the Charles County Critical Area. In the event of inconsistency between the provisions of Article IX and the provisions established in other applicable ordinances, the more restrictive or stringent provisions shall apply.
C. 
The Charles County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program consists of the requirements contained in this chapter, other applicable requirements set forth in the Zoning Ordinance, the official Critical Area Zone Maps, the Charles County Comprehensive Plan, Charles County Subdivision Regulations[1] and all other applicable County regulations.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 278, Subdivision Regulations.
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
A. 
No person shall develop, alter or use any land for residential, commercial, industrial or institutional uses; nor conduct agricultural, fishery or forestry activities in the Charles County Critical Area, except in compliance with the applicable provisions contained herein.
B. 
Article IX shall only apply to the Charles County Critical Area, hereafter referred to as the "Critical Area Zone." The Critical Area Zone shall include all lands and waters within 1,000 feet beyond the landward boundaries of state or private wetlands and the heads of tides designated under Title 16 of the Natural Resources Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.
C. 
Development in accordance with the Swan Point General Development Plan shall be reviewed in accordance with the growth allocation indenture and Docket 250 indenture, which shall supersede any contrary language in this article.
[Amended 10-25-1994 by Ord. No. 94-93; 6-20-2005 by Bill No. 2005-12; 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
Unless otherwise specifically provided, the words and phrases defined shall have the meaning indicated when used in this article, and when used in the Charles County Critical Area Program. The following definitions are intended to be consistent with the State Critical Area Criteria in COMAR 27.01.01.01 and § 8-1802 of the Natural Resources Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.
ABATEMENT
The act of putting an end to a land alteration, development activity, or other action cited as a violation under this chapter. Abatement includes the act of reducing the degree or intensity of the alteration, activity or action.
ACCESSORY STRUCTURE
A structure that is detached from a principal structure; located on the same lot as the principal structure; and customarily incidental and subordinate to the principal structure.
ADDITION
A newly constructed area that increases the size of a structure.
AFFORESTATION
The establishment of a tree crop on an area from which it has always or very long been absent or the planting of open areas that are not presently in forest cover.
AGRICULTURE
All methods of production and management of livestock, crops, vegetation, and soil. This includes, but is not limited to, the related activities of tillage, fertilization, pest control, harvesting, and marketing. It also includes, but is not limited to, the activities of feeding, housing and maintaining of animals such as cattle, dairy cows, sheep, goats, hogs, horses, and poultry and handling their by-products.
ANADROMOUS FISH
Fish that travel upstream (from their primary habitat in the ocean) to fresh water in order to spawn.
BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES (BMPs)
Conservation practices or systems of practices and management measures that control soil loss and reduce water quality degradation caused by nutrients, animal waste, toxic substances and sediment. Agricultural BMPs include but are not limited to strip cropping, terracing, contour stripping, grass waterways, animal waste structures, ponds, minimal tillage, grass and naturally vegetated filter strips and proper nutrient application measures.
BLUFF
See "cliff."
BUFFER (spelled with a capital B)
A naturally vegetated area or area established in native vegetation which is managed to protect aquatic, wetland shoreline and terrestrial environments from man-made disturbances. In the Critical Area Zone, the Buffer is a continuous area located immediately landward of tidal waters (measured from the mean high-water line), tributary streams in the Critical Area and tidal wetlands and has a minimum width of 100 feet, even if that area was previously disturbed by human activity. The Buffer shall be expanded beyond the minimum depth to include certain sensitive contiguous areas as per requirements established in this chapter. The buffer shall be delineated on a site-by-site basis as a part of the environmental review and site analysis process.
BUFFER MODIFICATION AREA (BMA)
An officially mapped area, approved by the Critical Area Commission, where it has been sufficiently demonstrated that the pattern of residential, industrial, commercial, institutional or recreational development existing as of December 1, 1985, prevents the buffer from fulfilling its intended functions for water quality protection and wildlife habitat conservation.
BUFFER MANAGEMENT PLAN
A narrative, graphic description, or plan of the buffer that is necessary when an applicant proposes a development activity that will affect a portion of the buffer, alter buffer vegetation, or require the establishment of a portion of the buffer in vegetation. A buffer management plan may be major, minor or simplified, as described in § 297-131.
CALIPER
Has the meaning stated in COMAR 08.19.03.01.
CANOPY TREE
A tree that, when mature, reaches a height of at least 35 feet.
CLIFF
A high, steep, face of 10 feet or more in height above the toe of the slope, in excess of 50% in pitch, either vegetated or nonvegetated.
COLONIAL NESTING BIRD SPECIES
Herons, egrets, terns and glossy ibis. For the purposes of nesting, these birds congregate (that is, "colonize") in relatively few areas, at which time the regional populations of these species are highly susceptible to local disturbances.
COMMUNITY PIERS
Boat docking facilities associated with subdivisions and similar residential areas and with condominium, apartment and other multiple-family dwelling units. Private piers and moorings are excluded from this definition.
CONSERVATION EASEMENT
A nonpossessory interest in land that restricts the manner in which the land may be developed in an effort to conserve natural resources for future use.
CONSOLIDATION
A combination of any legal parcels of land or recorded, legally buildable lots into fewer parcels or lots. Consolidation includes any term used by a local jurisdiction for a development application that proposes to combine legal parcels of land or recorded, legally buildable lots into fewer parcels or lots than the number that existed before the application, such as a subdivision, lot line abandonment, boundary line adjustment, replatting request, or lot line adjustment.
CRITICAL AREA
All lands and waters defined in § 8-1807 of the Natural Resources Article, Annotated Code of Maryland. They include:
A. 
All waters of and lands under the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to the head of tide as indicated on the state wetlands maps and all state and private wetlands designated under Title 16 of the Natural Resources Article, Annotated Code of Maryland;
B. 
All land and water areas within 1,000 feet beyond the landward boundaries of state or private wetlands and the heads of tides designated under Title 16 of the Natural Resources Article, Annotated Code of Maryland; and
C. 
Modification to these areas through inclusions or exclusions proposed by Charles County and approved by the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission as specified in § 8-1807 of the Natural Resources Article, Annotated Code of Maryland.
CRITICAL AREA COMMISSION
The Maryland Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission.
CRITICAL AREA ZONE
The portions of the Maryland Critical Area within the jurisdiction of Charles County.
DENSITY
The number of dwelling units per acre of gross area of a development tract, unless otherwise specified.
DEVELOPED WOODLANDS
An area of trees and natural vegetation interspersed with residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, or recreational development.
DEVELOPER
A person who undertakes a development activity, or a person who undertakes development as defined in § 8-1802 of the Natural Resources Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
DEVELOPMENT or DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITY (includes the term "develop")
Any activity that materially affects the condition or use of dry land, land under water, or any structure. Development activities include: Any construction, modification, extension or expansion of buildings or structures; placement of fill or dumping; storage of materials; land excavation; land clearing; land improvement; or any combination thereof, including the subdivision of land or action that results in construction, modification, extension or expansion of buildings or structures; placement of fill or dumping; storage of materials; land excavation; land clearing; land improvement; or any combination thereof, including the subdivision of land.
DEVELOPMENT ENVELOPE
The portion of a parcel or tract of land required for development activities in connection with a growth allocation application or growth allocation approval. The envelope shall include all individually owned lots, required buffers, impervious surfaces, roads, utilities and their easements, stormwater management facilities, on-site sewage disposal facilities, any areas subject to human use on a regular basis, such as active recreation areas, and any additional acreage needed to meet development requirements.
DISTURBANCE
Any alteration or change to the land. Disturbance includes any amount of clearing, grading or construction activity. Disturbance does not include gardening or maintenance of an existing grass lawn.
DISTURBED AREA
The area of a site where natural cover has been removed for construction of buildings, placement of septic systems or shared facilities, drives, roads, parking areas, etc., and not replaced.
DRAINAGEWAYS
Minor watercourses that are defined either by soil type, the presence of intermittent or perennial streams or topography that indicates a swale where surface sheet flows join, including: the land, except where areas are designated as floodplain, on either side of and within 50 feet of the center line of any intermittent or perennial stream shown on the United States Geological Service's seven-and-one-half-minute quadrangle sheets covering the unincorporated areas of Charles County.
DRIVEWAY
A private access road, drive, or land to an individual residence which is contained within the lot or parcel, or access easement, and is not intended to serve any other lot or parcel of land.
DWELLING UNIT
A single unit, being an enclosed structure, containing complete, independent living facilities designed for and held ready for at least one person, including permanent provisions for sanitation, cooking, eating, sleeping, and other activities routinely associated with daily life. Dwelling unit includes accessory apartment or guesthouse.
EASEMENT, CONSERVATION
See "conservation easement."
ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
A comprehensive report that describes the natural features and characteristics of a proposed development site, the changes that will occur as the result of proposed development activities on the site, the anticipated environmental impacts and consequences of the proposed development and mitigation measures to be taken to minimize undesirable impacts to the environment.
ESTABLISHMENT
The planting or regeneration of native vegetation.
EXCESS STORMWATER RUNOFF
All increases in stormwater resulting from:
A. 
An increase in the lot coverage on the site, including all additions to buildings and parking lots;
B. 
Changes in permeability caused by compaction during construction or modifications in contours, including the filling or drainage of small depression areas;
C. 
Alteration of drainageways or regrading of slopes;
D. 
Destruction of forest; and
E. 
Installation of collection systems to intercept street flows or to replace swales or other drainageways.
FAMILY, IMMEDIATE
Father, mother, son, daughter, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, stepparents, stepchildren and legal wards and guardians.
FINANCIAL ASSURANCE
A performance bond, letter of credit, cash deposit, insurance policy or other instrument of security acceptable to Charles County.
FISH, ANADROMOUS
See "anadromous fish."
FISHERIES ACTIVITIES
Commercial water-dependent fisheries facilities, including structures for the packing, processing, canning or freezing of finfish, crustaceans, mollusks and amphibians and reptiles, and also including related activities such as wholesale and retail sales, product storage facilities, crab shedding, off-loading docks, shellfish culture operations and shore-based facilities necessary for aquaculture operations.
FOREST
Has the meaning as stated in Natural Resources Article § 5-1601, Annotated Code of Maryland.
FOREST INTERIOR DWELLING BIRDS
Species of birds which require relatively large forested tracts in order to breed successfully. Examples of forest interior dwelling birds include, but are not limited to, various species of flycatchers, warblers, vireos and woodpeckers.
FOREST MANAGEMENT
The protection, manipulation and utilization of the forest to provide multiple benefits, such as timber harvesting, wildlife habitat, etc.
FOREST PRACTICE
The alteration of the forest either through tree removal or replacement in order to improve the timber, wildlife, recreational or water quality values.
FULLY ESTABLISHED
A term used to indicate that the buffer contains as much diverse, native vegetation as necessary to support a firm and stable riparian habitat capable of self-sustaining growth and regeneration.
GRANDFATHERED
The status accorded certain properties and development activities that are of record prior to the date of adoption of this chapter or provisions of this chapter.
GROWTH ALLOCATION
Either an area of land calculated as 5% of the total resource conservation area (excluding tidal wetlands and federally owned land), that the County may convert to more intense management areas to accommodate land development; or an act of the County Commissioners, i.e., approving the "growth allocation," which provides for conversion of a property or properties located in a Resource Conservation Zone (RCZ) and/or the Limited Development Zone (LDZ) in the Critical Area to another land management classification which allows an increase in the permitted density.
HABITAT PROTECTION AREAS
Land containing specialized plant or wildlife habitat, where protection is essential to the preservation of biological species and water quality. Habitat protection areas in Charles County include the one-hundred-foot Critical Area Buffer, expansions of the Critical Area Buffer, threatened and endangered species habitat, nontidal wetlands, natural heritage areas, colonial water bird nesting areas, historic waterfowl staging areas, forest areas with forest interior dwelling birds, and anadromous fish propagation waters.
HABITAT PROTECTION PLAN
A plan for the protection of specialized plant or wildlife habitat, as those terms are defined in 27.01.09.04 of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), as a requirement of the development review process.
A. 
A tree with a structural defect, such as a crack, canker, weak branch union, decay, dead wood, root damage, or root disease, that decreases the structural integrity of the tree and which, because of its location, is likely to fall and cause personal injury or property damage, including acceleration of soil erosion; or
B. 
Based on its location in the landscape, a healthy tree that, with continued normal growth, will damage an existing permanent structure or significantly increase the likelihood of soil erosion.
C. 
This term does not include a tree for which the likelihood of personal injury, property damage, or soil erosion can reasonably be eliminated or significantly diminished with routine and proper arboricultural practices, such as regular watering, application of fertilizer or mulch, and pruning; or by relocation of property that is likely to be damaged.
HIGHLY ERODIBLE SOILS
Soils with a slope greater than 15%; or those soils with a "K" value greater than 0.35 with slopes greater than 5%.
HISTORIC WATERFOWL STAGING AND CONCENTRATION AREA
An area of open water and adjacent marshes where waterfowl gather during migration and throughout the winter season. These areas are historic in the sense that their location is common knowledge and because these areas have been used regularly during recent times.
HYDRIC SOILS
Soils that are wet frequently enough to periodically produce anaerobic conditions, thereby influencing the species composition or growth, or both, of plants on those soils.
IMMEDIATE FAMILY
See "family, immediate," above.
IMPERVIOUS SURFACE
See "surface, impervious."
IN-KIND REPLACEMENT
The removal of a structure and the construction of another structure that is smaller than or identical to the original structure in use, footprint area, width, and length.
INTENSE DEVELOPMENT ZONE (IDZ)
A mapped area of at least 20 acres where residential, commercial, institutional, or industrial developed land uses predominate and a relatively small amount of natural habitat occurs. The Intense Development Zone includes:
A. 
An area with a housing density of at least four dwelling units per acre; or
B. 
An area with public water and sewer systems with a housing density of more than three dwelling units per acre.
INTRAFAMILY TRANSFER
A fee-simple conveyance of a portion of property to a member of the property owner's immediate family (see definition above), for the purpose of establishing a residence for that family member.
INVASIVE SPECIES
A type of plant that is nonnative to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
LAND CLEARING
Any activity that removes the vegetative ground cover.
LANDWARD EDGE
The limit of a site feature that is farthest away from a tidal water, tidal wetland, or tributary stream.
LARGE SHRUB
A shrub that, when mature, reaches a height of at least six feet.
LIMIT OF DISTURBANCE
The area of development or redevelopment activity that includes temporary and permanent disturbance.
LIMITED DEVELOPMENT ZONE (LDZ)
A mapped area that is developed in low- or moderate-intensity uses and contains areas of natural plant and animal habitat and where the quality of runoff has not been substantially altered or impaired. The Limited Development Zone includes an area:
A. 
With a housing density ranging from one dwelling unit per five acres up to four dwelling units per acre;
B. 
With a public water or sewer system;
C. 
That is not dominated by agricultural land, wetland, forests, barren land, surface water, or open space; or
D. 
That is less than 20 acres and otherwise qualifies as an Intense Development Zone.
LOT COVERAGE
The percentage of a total lot or parcel that is occupied by a structure, accessory structure, parking area, driveway, walkway, or roadway or is covered with gravel, stone, shell, impermeable decking, a paver, permeable pavement, or any man-made material. Lot coverage includes the total ground area covered or occupied by a stairway or impermeable deck. Lot coverage does not include:
A. 
A fence or wall that is less than one foot in width that has not been constructed with a footer;
B. 
A walkway in the buffer or expanded buffer, including a stairway that provides direct access to a community or private pier;
C. 
A wood mulch pathway; or
D. 
A deck surface with gaps not less than 1/4 inch in width or a composite deck surface with gaps not less than 1/2 inch in width at the time of construction, which allows water to pass freely.
MAJOR INFRACTION
An infraction which has severe adverse affect and/or threatens the environment, or has significant adverse effect on the health, safety or general welfare of the neighborhood, community or the public at large. A major infraction includes, but is not limited to:
A. 
The clearing, grading, or filling of 5,000 square feet or more;
B. 
Construction/Emplacement of a structure, or other lot coverage, 200 or more square feet in size;
C. 
Development activities within the buffer; and/or
D. 
Development activities in violation of an approved habitat protection plan or buffer management plan.
MARINA
Any facility for the mooring, berthing, storing or securing of watercraft, but not including community piers and other noncommercial boat docking and storage facilities.
MEAN HIGH WATER LINE
The average level of high tides at a given location.
MINOR INFRACTION
An infraction which does not have noticeable or significant adverse effect on the environment or on the peaceful use, enjoyment or value of another's property. A minor infraction includes, but is not limited to:
A. 
The clearing, grading, or filling of less than 1,000 square feet;
B. 
Construction/Emplacement of a structure, or other lot coverage, less than 100 square feet in size; and/or
C. 
Construction of a structure (pier, deck, boat lift, pilings, etc.) over tidal waters or wetlands with the authorization of the Maryland Department of the Environment but without the approval of the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management.
MITIGATION
An action taken to compensate for adverse impacts to the environment resulting from development, a development activity, or a change in land use or intensity.
MODERATE INFRACTION
An infraction which has noticeable or significant adverse effect on the environment or on the peaceful use, enjoyment or value of another's property, but does not have significant adverse effect on the health, safety or general welfare of the neighborhood, community or the public at large. A moderate infraction includes, but is not limited to:
A. 
The clearing, grading, or filling of 1,000 square feet to 4,999 square feet;
B. 
Construction/Emplacement of a structure, or other lot coverage, 100 square feet to 199 square feet in size;
C. 
Construction of a structure (pier, deck, boat lift, pilings, etc.) over tidal waters or wetlands without the authorization of the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management;
D. 
Development activities which exceed the limits of a permit or plan approved by the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management; and/or
E. 
Development activities under an approved permit or plan for which associated mitigation is not completed as required by the Charles County Critical Area Program.
MODIFICATION, BUFFER
An act of the County Commissioners, approved by the Critical Area Commission, that permits an area of the County to fall under modifications of the Buffer provisions of the critical area zones under certain conditions.
NATIVE
Indigenous to the physiographic area in Maryland where the planting is proposed.
NATURAL FEATURES
Components and processes present in or produced by nature, including but not limited to soil types, geology, slopes, vegetation, surface water, drainage patterns, aquifers, recharge areas, climate, floodplains, aquatic life and wildlife.
NATURAL FOREST VEGETATION
Plant cover consisting of canopy trees, understory trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants typically found in upland and riparian areas of Maryland unaffected by human activities.
NATURAL REGENERATION
Has the meaning stated in COMAR 08.19.03.01.
NATURAL VEGETATION
Plant communities that develop in the absence of human activities.
NONTIDAL WETLANDS
See "wetlands, nontidal."
NON-WATER-DEPENDENT PROJECT
A temporary or permanent structure that, by reason of its intrinsic nature, use, or operation, does not require location in, on, or over state or private wetlands.
[Added 5-6-2014 by Bill No. 2014-02]
A. 
A non-water-dependent project includes:
(1) 
A dwelling unit on a pier;
(2) 
A restaurant, a shop, an office, or any other commercial building or use on a pier;
(3) 
A temporary or permanent roof or covering on a pier;
(4) 
A pier used to support a non-water-dependent use; and
(5) 
A small-scale renewable energy system on a pier, including:
(a) 
A solar energy system and its photovoltaic cells, solar panels, or other necessary equipment;
(b) 
A geothermal energy system and its geothermal heat exchanger or other necessary equipment; and
(c) 
A wind energy system and its wind turbine, tower, base or other necessary equipment.
B. 
A non-water-dependent project excludes:
(1) 
A fuel pump or other fuel dispensing equipment on a pier;
(2) 
A sanitary sewage pump or other wastewater removal equipment on a pier; or
(3) 
An office on a pier for managing marina operations, including monitoring vessel traffic, registering vessels, providing docking services, and housing electrical or emergency equipment related to marina operations.
OFFSETS
Structures or actions that compensate for undesirable impacts.
OPEN SPACE
Undeveloped land used primarily for resource protection or recreational purposes. Land and water areas retained for use as active or passive recreation areas in an essentially underdeveloped state or land areas retained in natural cover, agricultural or commercial forestry use.
OPEN WATER
Tidal waters of the state that do not contain tidal wetlands and/or submerged aquatic vegetation.
PERMANENT DISTURBANCE
A material, enduring change in the topography, landscape, or structure that occurs as part of a development or redevelopment activity. Permanent disturbance includes:
A. 
Construction or installation of any material that will result in lot coverage;
B. 
Construction of a deck;
C. 
Except as under Subsection A(3) of the definition of "temporary disturbance," grading; and
D. 
Except as under Subsection A(2) of the definition of "temporary disturbance," clearing of a tree, forest, or developed woodland.
PERSON
An individual, partnership, corporation, contractor, property owner, or any other person or entity.
PHYSIOGRAPHIC FEATURES
The soils, topography, land slope and aspect and local climate that influence the form and species composition of plant communities.
PIER
Any pier, wharf, dock, walkway, bulkhead, breakwater, piles, or other similar structure; does not include structures on pilings or stilts landward of state or private wetlands.
[Added 5-6-2014 by Bill No. 2014-02]
PIERS, COMMUNITY
See "community piers."
PRINCIPAL STRUCTURE
The building containing the primary use of a property.
PROGRAM AMENDMENT
Any change or proposed change to the Charles County Critical Area Program that is not determined by the Chairman of the Critical Area Commission to be a program refinement.
PROGRAM REFINEMENT
Any change or proposed change to the Charles County Critical Area Program that the Chairman of the Critical Area Commission determines will result in a use of land or water in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area in a manner consistent with the Charles County Critical Area Program, or that will not significantly affect the use of land or water in the critical area. Program refinement may include:
A. 
A change to the Charles County Critical Area Program that results from state law;
B. 
A change to the Charles County Critical Area Program that affects local processes and procedures;
C. 
A change to the Zoning Ordinance or Charles County Code that clarifies an existing provision; and
D. 
A minor change to an element of the Charles County Critical Area Program that is clearly consistent with the provisions of state critical area law and all the criteria of the Commission as set forth in § 8-1802 of the Natural Resources Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
RECONFIGURATION
A change of the arrangement of the existing lot or parcel lines of any legal parcel of land or recorded, legally buildable lots. Reconfiguration includes any term used for a development application that proposes to change the arrangement of the existing lot or parcel lines of any legal parcel of land or recorded, legally buildable lot that existed before the application, such as a subdivision, lot line adjustment, or boundary line adjustment, replatting request, or a revision of acreage to increase density.
REDEVELOPMENT
The process of developing land that is or has been developed.
REFORESTATION
The establishment of a forest through artificial reproduction or natural regeneration.
A. 
A mapped area that:
(1) 
Is characterized by nature-dominated environments, such as wetlands, surface water, forests, and open space; and
(2) 
Resource-based activities, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, or aquaculture.
B. 
Resource Conservation Zone includes an area with a housing density of less than one dwelling unit per five acres.
RESTORATION
The act of returning a site or area to an original state or any action that reestablishes all or a portion of the ecological structure and functions of a site or area.
RIPARIAN HABITAT
Habitat that is strongly influenced by water and which occurs adjacent to streams, shorelines and wetlands.
ROAD
A public thoroughfare under the jurisdiction of the state, a county, a municipal corporation, or any other public body. "Road" does not include a drive aisle or driveway.
SHORE EROSION CONTROL MEASURES
Any of number of structural and nonstructural methods or techniques for controlling the erosion of shoreline areas. More specifically, the term refers to:
A. 
Nonstructural.
(1) 
Creation of intertidal marsh channelward of the line of mean high water, through the establishment of habitat consisting of native emergent plants.
(2) 
The establishment of stable shoreline through the planting of an existing shore, landward of the line of mean high water, with a wide band of native upland plant cover appropriate to specific site conditions.
(3) 
Sloping and planting a nonwooded bank, using native plant materials, to manage tidal water contact and reduce shoreline erosion.
(4) 
Filling alongshore with sandy materials consistent with natural beach materials, followed by grading, thus reducing tidal water contact with the eroding upland area.
B. 
Structural.
(1) 
Facing, composed of riprap stone, or other similar interlocking components, in the form of an embankment-like structure, loosely placed on a gently (no greater than 2:1) sloping shore to withstand and reduce wave energy and contain shore materials.
(2) 
Elongated structure composed of various rigid materials, placed offshore and parallel to the shoreline to deflect and reduce wave energy, thereby decreasing shoreline erosion immediately inshore.
(3) 
Filling alongshore with sandy materials consistent with natural beach materials, grading, and containing the new beach materials through the placement of structures that impede the lateral transport of beach materials, such as groins, jetties or breakwaters. The reasonable channelward length of such structures is a function of reasonable width of desired beach, and effects to navigation.
(4) 
Retaining wall structure, composed of pressure-treated lumber or other rigid materials, installed along or immediately landward of the line of mean high water, and designed for a functional life of no less than 30 years. New bulkheads are generally acceptable only where warranted specific to unique site conditions.
SIGNIFICANT SHORELINE EROSION
An annual rate of erosion of two feet or greater.
SLOPES, STEEP
Slopes of 15% or greater incline.
SMALL SHRUB
A shrub that, when mature, reaches a height of up to six feet.
SOIL CONSERVATION AND WATER QUALITY PLANS
Land-use plans for farms that show farmers how to make the best possible use of their soil and water resources while protecting and conserving those resources for the future. It is a document containing a map and related plans that indicate:
A. 
How the landowner plans to treat a farm unit;
B. 
Which best management practices the landowner plans to install to treat undesirable conditions; and
C. 
The schedule for applying best management practices.
SOILS, HIGHLY ERODIBLE
See "highly erodible soils."
SOILS, HYDRIC
See "hydric soils."
SPECIES IN NEED OF CONSERVATION
Those fish and wildlife whose continued existence, as part of the state's resources, are in question and which may be designated by the Secretary of Natural Resources as in need of conservation in accordance with the requirements set forth in §§ 10-2A-06 and 4-2A-03 of the Natural Resources Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.
SPOIL PILE
The overburden and reject materials as piled or deposited during surface mining or dredging.
STEEP SLOPES
See "slopes, steep."
STREAMS, TRIBUTARY
See "tributary streams."
A. 
A building or construction materials, or a combination of those materials, that are purposely assembled or joined together on or over land or water.
B. 
Includes a temporary or permanent fixed or floating pier, piling, deck, walkway, dwelling, building, boathouse, platform, gazebo, or shelter for the purposes of marine access, navigation, working, eating, sleeping, or recreating.
SUBSTANTIAL ALTERATION
A repair, reconstruction, replacement, or improvement of a principal structure, with a proposed total footprint that is at least 50% greater than that of the structure that is the subject of the application.
SUPPLEMENTAL PLANTING PLAN
A description and landscape schedule that shows the proposed species type, quantity and size of plants to be located within a buffer if natural regeneration does not meet the required stem density.
SURFACE, IMPERVIOUS
Any man-made surface that is resistant to the penetration of water. Concrete, brick paving, roofs and heavily used gravel roads and parking areas which are subject to high levels of compaction are examples of "impervious surfaces."
SURFACE MINING, OR SAND AND GRAVEL OPERATION, WITHIN THE CRITICAL AREA
The breaking of surface soil to extract or remove minerals; any activity or process constituting all or part of the process for the extraction or removal of minerals from their original location; the extraction of sand, gravel, rock, stone, earth, or fill from borrow pits for highway construction purposes or other public facilities; any operations engaged in processing of materials at the site of extraction; removal of overburden and excavation of any material for the purpose of prospecting and, to the extent necessary, to determine the location, quantity or quality of a natural deposit; or, any activities thereof, if the affected land exceeds one acre or more in area.
SURFACE, SEMIPERVIOUS
Any man-made surface that is partially resistant to the penetration of water.
TEMPORARY DISTURBANCE
A short-term change in the landscape that occurs as part of a development or redevelopment activity.
A. 
This includes:
(1) 
Storage of materials that are necessary for the completion of the development or redevelopment activity;
(2) 
Construction of a road or other pathway that is necessary for access to the site of the development or redevelopment activity, if the road or pathway is removed immediately after completion of the development or redevelopment activity and the area is restored to its previous vegetative condition; and
(3) 
Grading of a development site, if the area is restored to its previous vegetative condition immediately after completion of the development or redevelopment activity.
B. 
Temporary disturbance does not include:
(1) 
A septic system in a forest or developed woodland on a lot created before local program approval, if clearing is required; and
(2) 
A violation.
TIDAL WETLANDS
See "wetlands, tidal."
TOPOGRAPHY
The existing configuration of the earth's surface, including the relative relief, elevations and position of land features.
TRAIL
A pathway which may be paved or unpaved and is physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier and is either within a right-of-way or within an independent tract or easement. Multi-use trail activities may include walking, hiking, jogging, horseback riding, bicycling, and roller skating.
TREE
A woody perennial plant having a single usually elongated main stem generally with few or no branches on its lower part; a perennial shrub or herb of arborescent form.
TRIBUTARY STREAMS
Perennial and intermittent streams as defined in § 297-49 and identified by site inspection or in accordance with the procedures set forth in this chapter.
UNDERSTORY TREE
A tree that, when mature, reaches a height of 12 feet to 35 feet.
UNWARRANTED HARDSHIP
Unwarranted hardship means that, without a variance, an applicant would be denied reasonable and significant use of the entire parcel or lot for which the variance is requested.
UPLAND BOUNDARY
The landward edge of a tidal wetland or nontidal wetland.
WATER-DEPENDENT FACILITIES
Structures or works associated with industrial, maritime, recreational, educational or fisheries activities which Charles County has determined require location at or near the shoreline within the buffer.
WATERFOWL
Birds which frequent and often swim in water, nest and raise their young near water, and derive at least part of their food from aquatic plants and animals.
WETLANDS, NONTIDAL
Those areas defined by 26.23.01.01 of the Code of Maryland Regulations that are inundated or saturated by surface water or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions, commonly known as "hydrophytic vegetation."
WETLANDS, TIDAL
State wetlands that are defined as any land under the navigable waters of the state below the mean high water line, affected by the regular rise and fall of tide and private wetlands defined as any land not considered state wetlands bordering or lying beneath tidal waters, that is subject to regular or periodic tidal action and supports aquatic growth. Private wetlands includes wetlands transferred by the state by a valid grant, lease, patent or grant confirmed by Article 5 of the Declaration of Rights of the Constitution to the extent of the interest transferred. The term "regular or periodic tidal action" means the rise and fall of the sea produced by the attraction of the sun and moon uninfluenced by the wind or any other circumstance.
WILDLIFE CORRIDOR
Strip of land having vegetation that provides habitat and a safe passageway for wildlife.
A. 
Official Critical Area Zone maps. The Charles County Critical Area shall be delineated on Official Critical Area Zone Maps, prepared as part of the Charles County Critical Area Program. The Critical Area Zone Maps shall be maintained in force as Official Maps of the County. The Critical Area Zone Maps shall delineate the extent of the Critical Area Zone in Charles County which is as defined in § 297-127B.
B. 
Critical Area Zone designation.
(1) 
All land within the Charles County Critical Area Zone, with the exception of federal land, shall be assigned to one of the following zones which correspond to the land use management classification as determined in the Charles County Critical Area Program which shall be shown on the Critical Area Zone Maps.
(a) 
Intense Development Zone (IDZ);
(b) 
Limited Development Zone (LDZ); or
(c) 
Resource Conservation Zone (RCZ).
(2) 
The land use management classification shall be based on the actual land use as of December 1985 and mapped according to rules for making such determination as established in the Charles County Critical Area Program, except as provided in § 297-134, Growth allocation (GA).
A. 
A single lot or parcel of land that was legally of record on the date of the adoption of this chapter may be developed with a single-family dwelling, if a dwelling was not already placed there, notwithstanding that such development may be inconsistent with the density provisions of § 297-132A. Except as otherwise provided, the following types of land may be developed in accordance with density requirements in effect prior to the adoption of this chapter:
[Amended 10-25-1994 by Ord. No. 94-93]
(1) 
Any lot on which development activity has legally progressed to the point of pouring foundation footing or installation of structural members;
(2) 
Any legal parcel of land, not being part of a recorded subdivision, that was recorded as of December 1, 1985. Development on lots created after June 1, 1984, and prior to the adoption dates of Charles County Critical Areas implementation ordinances shall comply with the conditions imposed under "interim findings" made by the Charles County Planning Commission;
(3) 
Land that was subdivided into recorded, legally buildable lots, or where the subdivision received final approval prior to June 1, 1984, provided that the development of these lands conforms with the Charles County Critical Area Program. At a minimum, development on lots created prior to June 1, 1984, shall comply with the provisions of § 297-132, or shall be approved through the variance process by the Board of Appeals and reviewed by the Critical Area Commission. Where the Charles County Health Department requires consolidation or reconfiguration of lots not individually owned, the provisions of this chapter and § 278-19 of the Charles County Subdivision Regulations shall apply to the consolidated or reconfigured lots, insofar as possible;
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(4) 
Land that was subdivided into recorded, legally buildable lots where the subdivision received final approval after December 1, 1985, provided that either development of any such land conforms to the requirements of this chapter or the area of land is counted against the County's remaining growth allocation; and
(5) 
Any existing legal building or use of land as of June 7, 1989, is a legal nonconforming use. Expansion of such existing buildings or uses may be permitted after a determination has been made that such expansion complies with the provisions of this chapter, or complies insofar as possible with the chapter, and is approved through the variance process by the Board of Appeals and is reviewed by the Critical Area Commission.
(6) 
Lot consolidations and lot reconfigurations shall be subject to the standards and requirements outlined in § 278-19 of the Charles County Subdivision Regulations. A proposed lot line adjustment, lot consolidation, or lot reconfiguration must effectively bring those lands into conformance with the Critical Area Program to the extent feasible.
[Added 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
B. 
Any new development grandfathered by the provisions listed above must meet the habitat protection and water-dependent facilities requirements in the Charles County Critical Area Program and this chapter.
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
A. 
Buffer function, definition, and expansion.
(1) 
The Critical Area Buffer establishes an area of undisturbed natural vegetation, or an area for enhancement with vegetation native to the Critical Area, managed to protect shorelines, streams, wetlands, and riparian biological communities from adverse effects of land use. Functions of the Buffer include:
(a) 
Removing or reducing sediments, nutrients and potentially harmful or toxic substances in runoff;
(b) 
Minimizing adverse effects from human activities on shorelines, wetlands, stream banks, tidal waters and aquatic resources;
(c) 
Maintaining areas of transitional habitat between aquatic and upland communities;
(d) 
Maintaining the natural environment of streams; and
(e) 
Protecting riparian wildlife habitat.
(2) 
This buffer is designated within 100 feet landward of:
(a) 
The line of mean high water of tidal waters;
(b) 
The edge of each bank of tributary streams; and
(c) 
The upland boundary of tidal wetlands.
(3) 
For all properties within the Resource Conservation Zone that are subject to an application for subdivision or site development plan approval that does not involve growth allocation, the Buffer is at least 200 feet landward of:
(a) 
The line of mean high water of tidal waters or tidal wetlands; and
(b) 
One hundred feet landward of tributary streams.
(4) 
The Buffer shall be expanded to include contiguous sensitive areas on the parcel. Sensitive areas and expansion requirements are applicable as follows:
(a) 
Where site features include slopes contiguous to the Buffer of 15% or greater as measured over a horizontal interval of 10 feet, the Buffer shall be expanded four feet for every 1% of steep slope, or to the top of the slope, whichever is greater in extent.
(b) 
When the Buffer is contiguous to hydric soils or highly erodible soils on a slope of less than 15%, the Buffer shall be expanded to the landward edge of the soil or 300 feet, whichever is less.
[1] 
If the Buffer is contiguous to a highly erodible soil on a slope of less than 15% or a hydric soil and is located on a lot or parcel created before January 1, 2010, development may occur within the expanded Buffer if:
[a] 
The location of the development activity is in the expanded portion of the Buffer for a highly erodible soil on a slope less than 15% or a hydric soil, but not the one-hundred-foot Buffer;
[b] 
The Buffer for a highly erodible soil on a slope less than 15% or a hydric soil occupies at least 75% of the lot or parcel; and
[c] 
Mitigation occurs at a 2:1 ratio based on the lot coverage of the proposed development activity that is in the expanded Buffer.
[2] 
Where the Buffer is contiguous to nontidal wetlands that are not nontidal wetlands of special state concern, the Buffer shall be expanded to the upland boundary of the nontidal wetlands.
[3] 
Where the Buffer is contiguous to nontidal wetlands of special state concern, the Buffer shall be expanded to include the wetland and its regulated one-hundred-foot Buffer.
[4] 
Upon initial expansion of the Buffer, as required by the above criteria, should the new location of the Buffer be contiguous to additional sensitive areas, further expansion shall be required per the provisions of this chapter.
[5] 
The two-hundred-foot Buffer in the RCZ may be reduced if:
[a] 
The strict application of the two-hundred-foot Buffer would preclude:
[i] 
Subdivision of the property at a density of one dwelling unit per 20 acres, if all other state and local requirements will be satisfied; or
[ii] 
An intrafamily transfer.
B. 
Buffer delineation and establishment.
(1) 
When lands are subject to proposals for development, subdivision, or conversion to new uses, the location of the Buffer shall be delineated at the time of approval of a development activity through field verification. The approved delineation of the Buffer shall remain valid for a period of three years. Any application for development beyond the three-year period shall warrant a review by the Planning Division to determine whether development is being actively pursued. It shall be the responsibility of the applicant to demonstrate to the Planning Division in writing that the development activity is being actively pursued. Should the Planning Division determine that the development activity is not actively being pursued, the Planning Division may require a reverification of the Buffer through field inspection. Based upon the results of the field inspection, the Buffer may need to be redelineated.
(2) 
Buffer establishment requirements are applicable to:
(a) 
A development or redevelopment activity that includes a Buffer to tidal waters, a tidal wetland, or a tributary stream if that development or redevelopment activity is located outside the Buffer; or
(b) 
The approval of a subdivision that includes a Buffer to tidal waters, a tidal wetland, or a tributary stream.
(3) 
Buffer establishment requirements are not applicable to:
(a) 
An in-kind replacement of a principal structure.
(b) 
Minor grading and filling activities for the purpose of maintaining or restoring an existing yard/lawn area.
(4) 
When lands that are subdivided remain in agricultural use after subdivision, implementation of the Buffer Management Plan may be delayed until the use of the lot is converted to a nonagricultural purpose, provided a Buffer Management Plan is prepared in accordance with Subsection E.
(5) 
A Buffer Management Plan sufficient to establish the Buffer in vegetation is required with an application for:
(a) 
Approval of a subdivision or a lot;
(b) 
Conversion from one land use to another land use on a lot or a parcel; or
(c) 
Development on a lot or a parcel created before January 1, 2010.
(6) 
When the Buffer is not fully forested or is not fully established in existing, naturally occurring woody or wetland vegetation, the Buffer shall be established according to the following table:
Development Category
Lot Created Before June 7, 1989
Lot Created After June 7, 1989
Development on a vacant lot
Establish the Buffer based on total square footage of lot coverage outside the Buffer
Fully establish the Buffer
Subdivision
Fully establish the Buffer
New lot with an existing dwelling unit
Establish the Buffer based on total square footage of lot coverage outside of the Buffer
Conversion of a land use on a parcel or lot to another land use
Fully establish the Buffer
Addition, accessory structure, or redevelopment
Establish the Buffer based on net square footage increase in lot coverage outside of the Buffer
Substantial alteration
Establish the Buffer based on total square footage of lot coverage outside of the Buffer
(7) 
A local jurisdiction may authorize an applicant to deduct from the total establishment requirement an area of lot coverage removed from the Buffer if:
(a) 
The lot coverage existed before the date of local program adoption or was allowed by local procedures; and
(b) 
The total area is stabilized.
C. 
Buffer development standards.
(1) 
New land uses and development activities permitted in the underlying base zones, including clearing of natural vegetation, erection of structures, construction of new roads, parking areas, or other impervious surfaces or lot coverage, and, on new lots, the placement of private sewage disposal systems, shall be prohibited within the Critical Area Buffer, except for the following:
(a) 
Community piers, individual private piers, docks, and launching ramps.
[1] 
Only the following community pier facilities shall be permitted to be located in the Buffer:
[a] 
Docks, piers, slips, launching ramps, access roads, paths; and
[b] 
Loading/Unloading areas.
[2] 
Where community or individual slips or piers, are proposed in conjunction with new development approved after the date of the Charles County Critical Area Program adoption, the number of slips and piers shall be the lesser of Subsection C(1)(a)[2][a] or [b] below.
[a] 
Up to one slip for every 50 feet of shoreline in subdivisions in the LDZ and IDZ, and one slip for every 300 feet of shoreline in subdivisions in the RCZ; or
[b] 
A density of slips to platted lots or dwellings in the development according to the following schedule:
Platted Lots or Dwellings in the Critical Area
Slips
Up to 15
1 for each lot or dwelling
16 to 40
15 or 75%, whichever is greater
41 to 100
30 or 50%, whichever is greater
101 to 300
50 or 25%, whichever is greater
Over 300
75 or 15%, whichever is greater
[c] 
If community piers are provided as part of the new development, private piers in the development are not allowed.
[3] 
New subdivisions within the Limited Development Zone and Resource Conservation Zone.
[a] 
The Planning Commission has the authority to determine whether a new subdivision should be permitted to utilize community piers or individual piers. Individual piers are not allowed if the Planning Commission finds that individual piers would result in detrimental impact to:
[i] 
Habitat of rare, threatened or endangered species;
[ii] 
Submerged aquatic vegetation;
[iii] 
Forest interior dwelling species habitat;
[iv] 
Historic waterfowl staging areas; or
[v] 
Historic shellfish areas.
[b] 
The Planning Commission may also consider whether the exceptional narrowness, shallowness, or shape of specific parcels of property, or by reason of exceptional topographical conditions or other extraordinary situations or conditions of specific parcels or property, precludes development of a community pier as not reasonably feasible or practicable.
[c] 
When a development within the LDZ or RCZ proposes to use individual piers, the Planning Commission will be presented with a report detailing the applicant's proposal for individual piers. This report may include staff review and/or analysis from other appropriate agencies, such as the Critical Area Commission, Maryland Department of the Environment, or the Department of Natural Resources.
[d] 
A note shall be included on the preliminary plan and/or final plat to indicate whether individual piers or a community pier(s) was approved for the subdivision. The note shall also specify the number of individual piers or community piers approved.
(b) 
New industrial or port-related facilities, and the expansion, redevelopment or replacement of industrial or port-related facilities, where permitted in the IDZ and where designated as a Buffer Modification Area.
(c) 
New commercial marinas and other related commercial maritime facilities where permitted in the LDZ and the IDZ, and expansion of existing commercial marinas and other related commercial maritime facilities in the RCZ, provided that non-water-dependent uses and activities are not located in the Buffer, and provided sufficient demonstration that any expansion will result in an overall net improvement in water quality at or leaving the site of the marina. While proposed water-dependent uses shall be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Planning Division, Figure VIII-1 generally distinguishes those water-dependent facilities which may be permitted in the Critical Area, within and exterior to the Buffer, subject to the standards of the underlying base zone.
Figure VIII-1
Buffer/Non-Buffer Water-Dependent and Associated Service Facilities
Buffer
Outside Buffer
Industrial and Port-Related Water-Dependent Facilities
Docks, piers and access roads
Processing facilities
Freight staging areas
Warehouses
Rail lines
Parking
Dry docks
Repair shops
Fueling areas
Administrative and maintenance offices
Public access areas
Commercial Marinas and Other Related Commercial Maritime Facilities
Docks, piers, launch ramps, access roads and paths
Dry storage facilities
Loading/Unloading areas
Boat repair yards
Railways associated with nonautomated boat repair
Boat sales
Fueling areas
Boater retail sales
Fresh water and ice
Other retail
Phone and electric hookups
Motels/Hotels
Sewage pumpout, dockside toilets/lockers
Parking
Related recreation uses (pools, tennis courts)
Wet dock shop facilities
Marina office
Waterfront restaurant
Community Piers and Other Related Noncommercial Docking/Storage Facilities
Docks, piers, launch ramps, access roads and paths
Lockers
Loading/Unloading areas
Rest rooms
Parking
Storage areas
Public Beaches/Other Public Water-Oriented Recreation and Education Areas
Lifeguard stations
Showers
Nature study/passive recreation facilities with no structure or impervious surface
Lockers (non-marina use)
Docks, piers, launch ramps, access roads and paths
Rest rooms
Loading and unloading areas
Parking
Fueling areas
Storage areas
Fresh water and ice
Service facilities for education and passive recreation areas
Phone and electric hookups
Marina office
Sewage pumpout, dockside toilets/lockers
Research Areas
Research facilities operated by local, state or federal agencies or education institutions
All non-water-dependent
Rest rooms
Parking
Fisheries and Related Commercial Water-Dependent Facilities
Docks, piers and access roads
Warehouses
Fueling areas
Parking
Fish off-loading docks
Repair shops and facilities
Shore facilities for aquaculture facilities
Processing and parking facilities
Administrative and maintenance offices
Waterfront restaurants
(d) 
Minor grading and filling of existing yard.
[1] 
Minor grading and filling of existing yard for the purpose of maintaining or restoring the lawn to a usable condition is permitted on residential, recreational, commercial, and industrial properties, provided that:
[a] 
The total area to be disturbed or the entire project is less than 5,000 square feet in size and involves less than 100 cubic yards of fill;
[b] 
A site inspection is conducted by the Planning Division staff prior to initiating the proposed work;
[c] 
Lawn or other approved ground cover is immediately reestablished;
[d] 
Any natural or planted vegetation, not including sod or fescue (grass), removed within the buffer is replaced on site within the buffer on a one-to-one basis with native vegetation; and
[e] 
Sediment and erosion controls are utilized in conjunction with the requirements of the Soil Conservation District.
[2] 
Should the project, when considered as a whole, require disturbance of 5,000 square feet or more, or 100 or more cubic yards of fill, a grading permit will be required for the project. Multiple zoning permits may not be used as a mechanism to avoid the grading permit requirement.
(e) 
Shore erosion control measures are permitted with an approved zoning permit.
[1] 
Nonstructural methods shall be utilized unless the property lies within an area designated by the Department of the Environment as appropriate for structural shore erosion control measures or the property owner can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Department of the Environment that non-structure measures are not feasible.
[2] 
Each application to the County shall comply with the requirements in Appendixes A and L of this chapter.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: Appendixes A and L are included as attachments to this chapter.
(f) 
Erosion control measures above mean high water are permitted with an approved Buffer Management Plan and zoning permit. Each application to the County shall comply with the requirements in Appendices A and N of this chapter.[2]
[2]
Editor's Note: Appendixes A and N are included as attachments to this chapter.
(g) 
Lot coverage in the Buffer may not exceed the minimum amount necessary for water-dependent facilities, regardless of the classification or the size of the parcel or lot, except:
[1] 
For a Buffer Modification Area, as mapped on the official Critical Area Maps for Charles County;
[2] 
For a variance granted in accordance with this chapter; or
[3] 
As provided in a waterfront revitalization area or a waterfront industrial area as designated under the Charles County Critical Area Program and Comprehensive Plan.
(h) 
Non-water-dependent projects located on state or private wetlands within the critical area.
[Added 5-6-2014 by Bill No. 2014-02]
[1] 
A non-water-dependent project located on state or private wetland within the critical area may be permitted if the project:
[a] 
Involves a commercial activity that is permitted as a secondary or accessory use to a permitted principal commercial use;
[b] 
Is not located on a pier attached to a residentially, institutionally, or industrially used property;
[c] 
Is located in:
[i] 
An Intense Development Zone;
[ii] 
An area excluded from the critical area;
[d] 
Obtains all applicable state and local permits;
[e] 
Allows or enhances public access to state wetlands, if applicable;
[f] 
Does not expand beyond the length, width, or channelward encroachment of the pier on which the project is constructed;
[g] 
Has a height of up to 18 feet unless the project is located at a marina; and
[h] 
Is up to 1,000 square feet in total area or:
[i] 
Is located on a pier that was in existence on or before December 31, 2012;
[ii] 
Satisfies all of the requirements of Subsection C (1)(h)[1][a] through [g] above; and
[iii] 
If applicable, has a temporary or permanent roof or covering that is up to 1,000 square feet in total area.
[2] 
A small-scale renewable energy system on a pier located on state or private wetlands may be permitted if the project:
[a] 
Involves the installation or placement of a small-scale renewable energy system that is permitted as a secondary or accessory use on a pier that is authorized under Title 16 of the Environment Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland; and
[b] 
Obtains all applicable state and local permits. A permit may include the placement of:
[i] 
A solar energy system attached to a pier if the device or equipment associated with that system does not extend more than:
[A] 
Four feet above or 18 inches below the deck of the pier; or
[B] 
One foot beyond the length or width of the pier.
[ii] 
A solar energy system attached to a piling if there is only one solar panel per boat slip;
[iii] 
A solar energy system attached to a boathouse roof if the device or equipment associated with that system does not extend beyond the length, width, or height of the boathouse roof;
[iv] 
A closed-loop geothermal heat exchanger under a pier if the geothermal heat exchanger or any associated devices or equipment do not:
[A] 
Extend beyond the length, width, or channelward encroachment of the pier;
[B] 
Negatively alter long shore drift;
[C] 
Cause significant individual or cumulative thermal impacts to aquatic resources; or
[v] 
A wind energy system attached to a pier if there is only one wind energy system per pier for which:
[A] 
The height from the deck of the pier to the blade extended at its highest point is up to 12 feet;
[B] 
The rotor diameter of the wind turbine is up to four feet; and
[C] 
The setbacks of the wind energy system from the nearest property line and from the channelward edge of the pier to which that system is attached are at least 1.5 times the total height of the system from its base to the blade extended at its highest point.
(2) 
Agricultural activities within the Buffer.
(a) 
The Critical Area Buffer is not required for agricultural drainage ditches if the adjacent agricultural land has in place best management practices as required in COMAR 27.01.06.
(b) 
A twenty-five-foot vegetated filter strip measured landward from the mean high water line of tidal waters or tributary streams (excluding drainage ditches), or from the edge of tidal wetlands, whichever is further inland, is established, and further provided that:
[1] 
The filter strip shall be composed of either trees with a dense ground cover, or a thick sod of grass, and shall be so managed as to provide water quality benefits and habitat protection consistent with the Charles County Critical Area Program; noxious weeds, including Johnson grass, Canada thistle, and multiflora rose, which occur in the filter strip, may be controlled by authorized means;
[2] 
The filter strip shall be expanded by a distance of four feet for every 1% of slope, for slopes greater than 6%;
[3] 
The twenty-five-foot vegetated filter strip shall be maintained until such time as the landowner is implementing a program of best management practices for the specific purposes of improving water quality and protecting plant and wildlife habitat; and provided that the portion of the soil conservation and water quality plan being implemented achieves the water quality and habitat protection objectives of the twenty-five-foot vegetated filter strip;
[4] 
The best management practices shall include a requirement for the implementation of a nutrient management program where appropriate;
[5] 
The feeding or watering of livestock may not be permitted within 50 feet of the mean high water line of tidal water and the edge of the bank of tributary streams or from the landward edge of tidal wetlands within the critical area, whichever is further inland; and
(c) 
Clearing of existing natural vegetation in the buffer is not permitted;
(d) 
The drainage, diking or filling of nontidal wetlands for the purpose of new agricultural lands is prohibited;
(e) 
Agricultural activities, including the grazing of livestock, do not disturb stream banks, tidal shorelines or other habitat protection areas as described in this chapter; and
(f) 
When agricultural use of lands within the Buffer ceases and the lands are proposed to be converted to other uses, the Buffer shall be established. In establishing the buffer, management measures shall be undertaken to provide forest vegetation that assures the Buffer functions set forth in this section of the chapter.
(3) 
Commercial harvesting of trees is permitted, under a timber harvest plan approved by the Department of Natural Resources and the District Forestry Board. Harvesting is permitted to within 50 feet of the edge of the intermittent streams, and to within 50 feet of the mean high water line or tidal wetlands when harvesting involves clear cutting of loblolly pine and tulip poplar or selective cutting of other species. Cutting shall not occur in any Habitat Protection Areas, but may be permitted in the Buffer in accordance with these provisions.
(4) 
The application of biosolids in the Buffer is prohibited.
(5) 
New commercial and industrial maritime, and related facilities, are prohibited in the Buffer, as it affects the Resource Conservation Zone (RCZ).
(6) 
Surface mining and related facilities, including wash plants, ponds, stockpiles and equipment, are prohibited in the Buffer.
D. 
Buffer mitigation and planting standards.
(1) 
These mitigation and planting standards are applicable to a development or redevelopment activity that occurs on a lot or parcel that includes a Buffer to tidal waters, tidal wetlands, or a tributary stream, when the development or redevelopment activity is located inside of the Buffer.
(2) 
A Buffer Management Plan in accordance with Subsection E shall be sufficient to satisfy the planting and mitigation standards of this section as well as establishment requirements in Subsection B so as to:
(a) 
Prohibit the installation or cultivation of new lawn or turf on site in the Buffer.
(b) 
Ensure the planting of native species.
(c) 
Ensure coverage of the Buffer with mulch or ground cover or both until Buffer plantings are established.
(d) 
Ensure plantings are distributed throughout the Buffer to provide optimum habitat and water quality benefits.
(3) 
The cumulative amount of Buffer mitigation required shall be calculated according to the following standards:
(a) 
For a development or redevelopment activity within the Buffer, mitigation shall be cumulatively based upon:
[1] 
The following ratios:
Activity
Permanent Disturbance
Temporary Disturbance
Septic on a lot created before local program approval if located in existing grass or if clearing is not required
Not applicable
0
Septic system in a forest or developed woodland on a lot created before local program approval if clearing is required
1:1
Not applicable
Shore erosion control
1:1
1:1
Shore erosion control above mean high water
2:1
1:1
Riparian water access
2:1
1:1
Development or redevelopment of a water-dependent facility
2:1
1:1
Variance
3:1
1:1
Violation
4:1
Not applicable
[2] 
And the square footage of the area of the canopy coverage removed.
(b) 
Mitigation for the removal of a diseased or dying, invasive, or hazardous tree shall be:
[1] 
One tree of at least a 3/4-inch caliper for each tree removed; or
[2] 
The affected area shall be stabilized in native woody vegetation, if a tree cannot be replanted due to space constraints.
(4) 
The total mitigation requirement may be reduced by an equal area of lot coverage removed from the Buffer if:
(a) 
The lot coverage existed before the date of local program adoption or was allowed by local procedures; and
(b) 
The total area is stabilized.
(5) 
Requirements for establishment may be met by a combination of plantings and natural regeneration for Buffer establishment in accordance with the following table:
Total Establishment Requirement
Options
Less than 1/4 acre
Landscaping stock according to Subsection D(7) for the entire area
1/4 acre to 1 acre
At least 25% landscaping stock according to Subsection D(7), with the remainder a combination according to Subsection D(10) or natural regeneration according to Subsection E(10)
Greater than 1 acre
At least 10% landscaping stock according to Subsection D(7), with the remainder a combination according to Subsection D(10) or natural regeneration according to Subsection E(10)
(6) 
Requirements for mitigation may be met by a combination of plantings for Buffer mitigation in accordance with the following table:
Total Mitigation Requirement
Options
Less than 1 acre
Landscaping stock according to Subsection D(7) for the entire area
1 acre or greater
At least 50% of area in landscaping stock according to Subsection D(7), with the remainder according to Subsection D(10)
(7) 
The following landscaping stock planting credits for the type and size of vegetation proposed are applicable:
Vegetation Type
Minimum Size Eligible for Credit
Maximum Credit Allowed
(square feet)
Maximum Percent of Landscape Stock Credit
Canopy tree
2-inch caliper
200
Not applicable
Canopy tree
3/4-inch caliper
100
Not applicable
Understory tree
3/4-inch caliper
75
Not applicable
Large shrub
3 feet high
50
30%
Small shrub
18 inches high
25
20%
Herbaceous perennial
1 quart or based on the area covered by plugs or seed mix
2
10%
Planting Cluster 1 for Buffer establishment or mitigation of less than 1/2 acre
1 canopy tree; and 3 large shrubs or 6 small shrubs of sizes listed above
300
Not applicable
Planting Cluster 2 for Buffer establishment or mitigation of less than 1/4 acre
2 understory trees; and 3 large shrubs or 6 small shrubs of sizes listed above
350
Not applicable
(8) 
The percentage of large shrubs, small shrubs, or herbaceous perennials in a buffer management plan may be increased, by County approval, if:
(a) 
The buffer has existing canopy coverage of at least 50%; or
(b) 
Site constraints preclude canopy planting, including severely eroding slopes, salt water intrusion, predominately sandy soils, or unconsolidated fill.
(9) 
All landscaping stock planted shall be 100% guaranteed for at least two years after planting is completed.
(10) 
Flexible stocking size may be permitted in accordance with Subsection D(5) and D(6) of this section under the following criteria:
Stock Size of Trees Only
Required Number of Stems per Acre
Survivability Requirement
Minimum Financial Assurance Period after Planting
Bare-root seedling or whip
700
50%
5 years
1/2-inch to 1-inch container-grown trees
450
75%
2 years
More than 1-inch container-grown trees
350
90%
2 years
(11) 
If mitigation planting cannot be located on-site within the Buffer because of site constraints, mitigation alternatives may be permitted in the following order of priority:
(a) 
Planting on-site and adjacent to the buffer;
(b) 
Planting on-site outside of the Buffer, but within the critical area; or
(c) 
Payment of a fee in lieu of Buffer mitigation under the provision of Subsection G of this section.
(12) 
The Board of Appeals may not issue a variance to the Buffer planting and mitigation standards of this article.
(13) 
A final use and occupancy permit or approval may not be granted until a property owner:
(a) 
Completes the planting required under an approved Buffer Management Plan; or
(b) 
Provides financial assurance that the planting will be completed during the next planting season. Said financial assurance shall be sufficient to cover the costs for:
[1] 
Materials and installation; and
[2] 
In the case of a mitigation or establishment requirement that is at least 5,000 square feet, long-term survivability, two years of monitoring and the implementation of a reinforcement planting plan should survival rates fall below those required by Subsection D.
(14) 
Prior to recordation of a final subdivision or final approval of a site plan for a multifamily, commercial, industrial, or institutional use, an applicant shall:
(a) 
Post permanent signs delineating the upland boundary of the Buffer at a ratio of at least one sign per lot or per 200 linear feet of shoreline, whichever is applicable; and
(b) 
Design each sign so that it:
[1] 
Is at least six inches in width and eight inches in height;
[2] 
Is placed at a height of 4.5 feet, but not attached to a tree; and
[3] 
Clearly states "Critical Area Buffer—No Clearing or Disturbance Permitted."
(15) 
Concurrent with the recordation of a final plat, an applicant shall record an easement or similar instrument as required by the approved Buffer Management Plan.
(16) 
An approved Buffer Management Plan is required prior to approval of a final subdivision application.
E. 
Buffer Management Plans.
(1) 
Unless otherwise required by this chapter, a Buffer Management Plan is not required for the maintenance of an existing grass lawn, such as mowing or raking of leaves, or an existing garden in the Buffer.
(2) 
A Buffer Management Plan is required for:
(a) 
Any development activity for which Buffer establishment is required by this article; or
(b) 
Any development activity which will result in disturbance to the Buffer. This includes:
[1] 
A variance;
[2] 
Subdivision approval;
[3] 
Site development plan approval;
[4] 
Shore erosion control measures approved under a zoning or infrastructure permit;
[5] 
Building permits;
[6] 
Infrastructure permits;
[7] 
A special exception;
[8] 
A permit by a local health department for the installation, repair, or replacement of a septic system; or
[9] 
A tree removal authorization or zoning permit.
(3) 
A Buffer Management Plan may not be approved unless:
(a) 
The plan clearly indicates that all planting standards of this article will be met; and
(b) 
Appropriate measures are in place for the long-term protection and maintenance of all Buffer areas established as required by this article.
(4) 
Approval of a Buffer Management Plan is required prior to approval of a development activity.
(a) 
At a minimum, a County zoning permit and/or tree removal authorization shall be required. Any mitigation required shall be comprised of vegetative species native to southern Maryland.
(5) 
Failure to implement a Buffer Management Plan shall constitute a violation of the Charles County Critical Area Program.
(6) 
No permit or other approval of a development activity will be issued on a property that is the subject of a violation under Subsection E(5).
(7) 
Simplified Buffer Management Plans.
(a) 
A simplified Buffer Management Plan is required as part of the application associated with any of the following activities:
[1] 
Providing access to a private pier or shoreline that is up to three feet wide;
[2] 
Manually removing invasive or noxious vegetation;
[3] 
Minor grading and filling to repair or maintain an existing grass lawn, as permitted by this article;
[4] 
Managing storm damage;
[5] 
Repairing or replacing a septic system;
[6] 
Except for an emergency situation under Subsection E(7)(b) of this section, cutting up to five dead, diseased, dying, invasive, or hazardous trees.
(b) 
If cutting a tree in the Buffer is immediately necessary because of an emergency situation, the applicant shall submit a simplified Buffer Management Plan for approval at the earliest possible time after the tree has been cut.
(c) 
A simplified Buffer Management Plan shall include:
[1] 
A brief narrative describing the proposed activity, including the anticipated start date and method to be used.
[2] 
The proposed mitigation.
[3] 
In the case of removal of invasive or noxious species, the revegetation of the area in accordance with this article.
[4] 
The proposed planting date.
[5] 
The signature of the party responsible for the proposed activity and for ensuring survival of the plantings.
(8) 
Minor Buffer Management Plans.
(a) 
A minor Buffer Management Plan is required as part of the application associated with any of the following activities:
[1] 
Establishment of less than 5,000 square feet of the Buffer for an application listed under this article; or
[2] 
A requested disturbance that requires less than 5,000 square feet of mitigation as required by this article.
(b) 
A minor Buffer Management Plan shall include:
[1] 
A plan that shows the proposed limit of disturbance, the total number and size of trees to be removed, if applicable, and the arrangement of the planting to be done;
[2] 
A landscape schedule that shows the proposed species type, the quantity of plants, the size of plants to be installed, and the planting date;
[3] 
A maintenance plan for the control of invasive species, pests, and predation that shows invasive species and pest control practices, the provision of at least two years of monitoring, and a reinforcement planting provision if survival rates fall below the standards of this article;
[4] 
An inspection agreement that grants permission to the local jurisdiction to inspect the planting at appropriate times;
[5] 
The information on which calculation of the amount of buffer to be planted was based, if Buffer establishment is required;
[6] 
Information on which calculation of the amount of the Buffer to be planted was based, if Buffer mitigation is required; and
[7] 
The signature of the party responsible for the proposed activity and ensuring the survival of the plantings.
(9) 
Major Buffer Management Plans.
(a) 
A major Buffer Management Plan is required as part of the application associated with any of the following activities:
[1] 
Establishment of at least 5,000 square feet of the Buffer for an application under this article; or
[2] 
A requested disturbance that requires at least 5,000 square feet of mitigation for an application under this article.
(b) 
A major Buffer Management Plan shall include:
[1] 
A plan that shows the proposed limit of disturbance, the total number and size of trees to be removed, if applicable, and the arrangement of the planting to be done;
[2] 
A landscape schedule that shows the proposed species type, the quantity of plants, the size of plants to be installed and the planting date;
[3] 
A maintenance plan for the control of invasive species, pests, and predation that shows invasive species and pest control practices, the provision of at least two years of monitoring, and a reinforcement planting provision if survival rates fall below the standards required by this article;
[4] 
A long-term protection plan that includes evidence of financial assurance that adequately covers the planting and survivability requirement, a provision for at least two years of monitoring as required by this article and, if planting, an anticipated planting date before construction or the sale of the lot;
[5] 
An inspection agreement that grants permission to the local jurisdiction to inspect the plantings at appropriate times;
[6] 
If Buffer establishment is required, the information on which the calculation of the amount of Buffer to be planted was based;
[7] 
If Buffer mitigation is required, the information on which the calculation of the amount of Buffer to be planted was based; and
[8] 
The signature of the party responsible for the proposed activity and for the survival of the plantings.
(c) 
For a Buffer Management Plan:
[1] 
A single species may not exceed 20% of the total planting requirement; and
[2] 
Shrubs may not exceed 50% of the total planting requirement.
(10) 
Natural regeneration requirements.
(a) 
A Buffer Management Plan which includes natural regeneration shall consist of:
[1] 
A site plan that includes:
[a] 
Delineation of the proposed area within 300 feet of a mature forest that contains a seed bank of native species adequate to support natural regeneration;
[b] 
The soil type; and
[c] 
Signage that delineates the natural regeneration area at one sign per 200 linear feet along the boundary of the area; and
[2] 
A description in narrative form of:
[a] 
Nearby seed sources of mature tree species;
[b] 
Presence or absence of invasive species in the proposed natural regeneration area and in the nearby forest and, if applicable, control practices for those invasive species;
[c] 
Soil texture, soil moisture regime, sunlight exposure, and soil amendments of the proposed natural regeneration area;
[d] 
Site preparation methods and timing;
[e] 
A monitoring plan; and
[f] 
A supplemental planting plan to be implemented in accordance with Subsection D of this section; and
[3] 
Financial assurance for at least five years that:
[a] 
Is sufficient to cover the cost of planting an area equivalent to the area of proposed natural regeneration; and
[b] 
Specifies that release of the financial assurance may not occur until the natural regeneration area, through natural growth and, if necessary, implementation of the supplemental planting plan, contains at least 300 live trees on a per-acre basis that are at least four feet tall.
[4] 
A statement certifying that areas of natural regeneration will not be converted to lawn or turf.
(b) 
Report, inspection, and procedures for release of financial assurance.
[1] 
Five years after the date of approval of a buffer management plan that includes natural regeneration, the party responsible for the development or redevelopment activity and the survival of the planting associated with that activity shall submit to the County a report for the natural regeneration area that contains:
[a] 
Photographs of the natural regeneration area;
[b] 
Based on standard sampling practices, an estimate of the number and average size of trees growing within the natural regeneration area on a per-acre basis; and
[c] 
A list of all plant species found within the natural regeneration area.
[2] 
Upon receipt of the report, the County shall inspect the natural regeneration site.
[3] 
If the natural regeneration area does not contain at least 300 live trees on a per-acre basis that are at least four feet tall, the County may:
[a] 
Extend the term of the natural regeneration and financial assurance to allow for up to five additional years of growth, if the report and inspection indicate viable progress toward natural regeneration; or
[b] 
Require implementation of the supplemental planting plan provided in the natural regeneration component of the Buffer Management Plan.
[4] 
If the County extends the term of the natural regeneration and financial assurance is extended to allow for additional growth, the County may increase the amount of financial assurance required.
[5] 
Upon expiration of the time provided under an extension of the term of natural regeneration and financial assurance or under a supplemental planting plan:
[a] 
The party responsible shall submit to the County an updated report that contains all the information required under Subsection D(1) of this section; and
[b] 
Upon receipt of the report, the County shall reinspect the natural regeneration site.
[6] 
At the end of five years after the date of approval, at the end of a term extension, or at the end of the implementation of a supplemental planting plan, if the natural regeneration area:
[a] 
Contains at least 300 live trees on a per-acre basis that are at least four feet tall, the County may release the financial assurance; or
[b] 
Does not contain at least 300 live trees on a per-acre basis that are at least four feet tall, the County may not release the financial assurance.
[7] 
At any time during the course of performance of a Buffer Management Plan, if the County determines that natural regeneration is not likely in the time anticipated in the Buffer Management Plan and that the party responsible is no longer available to complete performance of the Buffer Management Plan, the County may apply the financial assurance to implement the supplemental planting plan.
F. 
Buffer Modification Area provisions. The following special provisions apply in designated Buffer Modification Areas, throughout the Critical Area Overlay Zone.
(1) 
Permitted uses.
(a) 
New development or redevelopment, provided that the development and redevelopment rules and offsetting requirements set forth in Subsection F(3) and (4) below are observed.
(b) 
Shore erosion control measures, provided that such measures are consistent with the County's shore erosion protection policies, and provided that the measure has obtained all applicable County, state, and federal permits.
(c) 
Limited cutting or clearing of trees for the following purposes only, provided that clearing is limited to the minimum amount necessary to complete the proposed project and is subject to a simplified Buffer Management Plan, as defined in this article, and approved by the Planning Division:
[1] 
For personal use, provided that Buffer functions are not impaired and trees cut are replaced on an equal-area basis;
[2] 
To prevent trees from falling and blocking streams, causing damage to dwellings or other structures, or resulting in accelerated erosion of the shore or streambank;
[3] 
In conjunction with horticultural practices used to maintain the health of individual trees;
[4] 
To provide access to private piers, provided that any vegetation cleared is replaced on an area basis of 2:1;
[5] 
To install or construct an approved shore erosion protection device or measure, provided that any vegetation cleared is replaced on an area basis of 1:1;
[6] 
To protect trees from extensive pest or disease infestation by recommendation of the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Natural Resources; or
[7] 
To permit the development or redevelopment allowed in Subsection F(1)(a) and (b) to be constructed or installed. Mitigation shall be required as applicable under Subsection F(4) and § 297-132F and G.
[8] 
A County zoning permit and/or tree removal authorization shall be required.
(2) 
Prohibited uses: water-polluting activities, including, but not limited to, storage of vehicles, fuel, or chemicals.
(3) 
Development and redevelopment rules. For all new development and redevelopment activities, applicants must demonstrate that the distance between the new development and the mean high water line has been maximized. New development or redevelopment shall not be located less than 25 feet from the line of mean high water or the edge of tidal wetlands. The following rules also apply:
(a) 
Existing structures. The expansion or redevelopment of existing structures in the Buffer Modification Area may not occur closer to open water or wetlands than the existing principal structure or the setback line as defined by the location of principal structures on adjacent lots, measured as described below in Subsection F(3)(c), whichever is closer to the water. The location of the setback line shall generally run parallel to the line of mean high water.
(b) 
Removal of existing structures. When a structure within the Buffer Modification Area is removed or destroyed, it should be replaced, insofar as possible, outside of the Critical Area Buffer. Where this is not possible and in such cases where a setback line exists as defined by the existing principal structure or principal structures on adjacent lots or parcels, the structure may not be replaced closer to open water or wetlands than that line. Any lot coverage created greater in extent to preexisting lot coverage within the Buffer Modification Area shall be offset as described in Subsection F(4) below.
(c) 
New single-family detached residential development. New development in the Buffer Modification Area shall minimize the extent to which lot coverage extends toward open water or wetlands insofar as possible, taking into consideration existing County yard setback requirements of the underlying zones and other such factors. In no case may such lot coverage be extended closer to open water or wetlands than any setback line as defined by principal structures on adjacent lots or parcels or the setback of underlying zones required in this chapter, nor shall any new single-family residential development or redevelopment be located less than 25 feet from the line of mean high water or the edge of tidal wetlands. Accessory structures, septic systems, and other development activities shall not be used to determine a setback line in the Buffer Modification Area. The setback distance shall be measured from the building corner nearest to the water, to the line of mean high water or the limit of tidal wetlands or the edge of a tributary stream.
(d) 
Accessory structures. Construction of new accessory structures or expansion of existing accessory structures may be permitted closer to the water than the principal structure under an approved Buffer Management Plan, provided that:
[1] 
The new structure or expansion is not closer to the tidal waters, tidal wetlands or tributary streams than the standard rear yard setback of the underlying zone, or 25 feet, whichever is greater.
(e) 
Development activities may not disturb Habitat Protection Areas other than the Buffer, and may not occur in the Buffer where other Habitat Protection Areas overlap with the Buffer.
(f) 
New multifamily residential, institutional, commercial and industrial development and redevelopment shall not be closer than 50 feet to the line of mean high water or the minimum standard rear yard setback, whichever is greater.
(g) 
The setback requirements of the underlying base zone shall be satisfied, or variance from the setback requirements shall be approved, before requests for additional intrusion into the Buffer are considered.
(h) 
BMA designation shall not be used as a criterion to facilitate approval of the filling of tidal wetlands that are contiguous to the Buffer, for the purpose of creating additional buildable land for new development or redevelopment.
(4) 
Offsetting requirements. All development activities in the Buffer Modification Area which cause additional lot coverage shall be required to offset for such development as follows:
(a) 
Natural forest vegetation covering an area twice the extent of the lot coverage created in the Buffer shall be planted on the site and within the buffer to the maximum extent practicable. If the Buffer is of an existing fully forested/vegetated condition, other locations on site may be considered. If locations on site are inadequate or unavailable, plantings may occur off site in accordance with § 297-132E(4).
(b) 
When site constraints prevent full compliance with the above-described planting requirement, alternative offsets may include the removal and replacement, with natural forest vegetation, of existing lot coverage area in the Buffer, of no less an area than the newly created lot coverage; the construction of best management practices for stormwater; wetland creation or restoration; or other measures that improve water quality and habitat.
(c) 
All plantings shall be in accordance with Subsection D of this section.
(5) 
The Swan Point Development is subject to the Swan Point Alternative for Buffer Modification Areas. The Swan Point Alternative guides development activities within the Buffer Modification Areas of Swan Point, and can be found in Appendix L of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance.[3]
[3]
Editor's Note: Appendix L is included as an attachment to this chapter.
G. 
General regulations.
(1) 
Construction staking. The outer edge of the Critical Area Buffer shall be field-staked, clearly delineated with flagging as the limit of clearing and grading, and inspected by the Planning Division prior to the commencement of clearing and grading activities that occur within 50 feet of the Critical Area Buffer. The limits of permitted clearing and grading within the Critical Area Buffer shall likewise be field-staked and clearly delineated. Once construction is complete, the Critical Area Buffer shall be inspected by the Planning Division to ensure that no disturbance has occurred within the Critical Area Buffer.
(2) 
Signage. Permanent signage shall be required for those portions of the Critical Area Buffer which are owned by a homeowners' association under an approved Buffer Management Plan and within 50 feet of a residential or nonresidential lot.
(3) 
Trails. Trails constructed within the Critical Area Buffer shall be:
(a) 
Nonmotorized;
(b) 
Constructed of a pervious material; and
(c) 
No more than six feet in width.
H. 
Fee in lieu of Buffer mitigation.
(1) 
Applicants who cannot comply with the Buffer mitigation or offsetting requirements of Subsections A through G must pay into a fee-in-lieu program.
(2) 
Fees-in-lieu shall be assessed at the rate of $1.50 per square foot of mitigation or offset required.
(3) 
Any fees-in-lieu collected shall be placed in an account, which may not revert to the general fund, that will assure use of such fees for:
(a) 
Establishment of the Buffer on sites where planting is not a condition of development or redevelopment; or
(b) 
Water quality and habitat enhancement projects within the critical area.
The following standards shall apply to all development activities in the Critical Area Zone:
A. 
Density provisions.
(1) 
Intense Development Zone (IDZ). Density in the Intense Development Zone shall be as established in the underlying base zone.
(2) 
Limited Development Zone (LDZ). The density of development and minimum lot sizes permitted within a Limited Development Zone shall be governed by prescriptive densities within the applicable underlying base zoning districts. However, in underlying base zones that permit residential use, density may not exceed four units per acre.
(3) 
Resource Conservation Zone (RCZ). Residential densities in the Resource Conservation Zone shall be limited to no more than one dwelling unit per 20 acres, except as provided for in §§ 297-130 and 297-134 and below under Subsection A(5).
[Amended 6-20-2005 by Bill No. 2005-12]
(4) 
Determining density. Maximum density shall be based on the areal portion of the parcel located within the Critical Area limits, excluding tidal wetlands, not to exceed one dwelling unit per 20 acres in the RCZ. In the RCZ, private wetlands, those wetlands located above the elevation of mean high water, may be included in the density calculation, provided the actual development density specific to the upland portion of the site does not exceed one dwelling unit per eight acres.
(5) 
Within the RCZ, one additional dwelling unit per lot or parcel shall be considered as part of the primary dwelling unit for the purpose of the density calculation under this subsection, if the additional dwelling unit meets either of the following sets of conditions:
[Added 6-20-2005 by Bill No. 2005-12]
(a) 
Is located within the primary dwelling unit or its entire perimeter is within 100 feet of the primary dwelling unit; does not exceed 900 square feet in total enclosed area; and is served by the same sewage disposal system as the primary dwelling unit; or
(b) 
Is located within the primary dwelling unit; by its construction does not increase the amount of lot coverage already attributed to the primary dwelling unit; and is served by the same sewage disposal system as the primary dwelling unit.
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(6) 
An additional dwelling unit meeting all the criteria of this section that is separate from the primary dwelling unit may not be subdivided or conveyed separately from the primary dwelling unit.
[Added 6-20-2005 by Bill No. 2005-12]
(7) 
The provisions of this section apply to density calculations only and may not be construed to authorize the County to grant a variance, unless the variance is granted in accordance with the requirements and standards in this ordinance for variances in the Critical Area.
[Added 6-20-2005 by Bill No. 2005-12]
(8) 
The County shall maintain records of all building permits issued under this section for additional dwelling units considered part of a primary dwelling unit and shall provide this information on a quarterly basis to the Critical Area Commission.
[Added 6-20-2005 by Bill No. 2005-12]
B. 
Intrafamily transfers. The one-unit-per-twenty-acre density limitation shall not prevent a bona fide intrafamily transfer to members of the owner's immediate family (as defined in § 297-128), subject to the following limitations:
(1) 
Intrafamily transfers will be permitted on parcels of land in the Critical Area Zone where it is shown that the parcel was recorded on or before March 1, 1986, and where the portion of such parcel in the Critical Area is at least seven acres and not more than 60 acres in size.
(2) 
A notation shall be placed on the final subdivision plat denoting the lot(s) and residue that are created under these provisions.
(3) 
Subdivision of land within the Critical Area under the bona fide intrafamily transfer provisions contained herein shall be subject to the following limitations:
(a) 
Parcels of seven acres to less than 12 acres cannot be subdivided into more than a total of two lots.
(b) 
Parcels of 12 acres to less than 60 acres cannot be subdivided into more than three lots.
(4) 
Lots created pursuant to these provisions shall not be created for purposes of ultimate commercial sale. A lot created pursuant to these provisions may not be subsequently conveyed to any person except as provided herein:
(a) 
Where the conveyance is to a member of the owner's immediate family; or
(b) 
Where the conveyance of the lot is as part of a default on a mortgage or deed of trust.
(5) 
Any lot created under this subsection may not be transferred or sold to a third party who is not a member of the owner's immediate family or holder of a mortgage or deed of trust on the property, unless and until the Planning Commission has determined that the following conditions apply:
(a) 
A change in circumstances has occurred since the original transfer, which would warrant permitting a subsequent transfer, when such circumstances are consistent with the warrants and exceptions contained herein. A change in circumstances may include situations where the intrafamily transfer recipient has not resided in the County for the past five consecutive years and signs an affidavits verifying his or her intent not to reside in Charles County or demonstrates significant financial hardship; or
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(b) 
Other circumstances necessary to maintain land areas to support protective uses of agriculture, forestry, open space and natural habitats in the RCZ warrant an exception.
(6) 
Deeds of transfer shall include a covenant stating that the lot is subject to the provisions of this subsection. These covenants shall restrict the subsequent transfer or sale of a lot or lots created pursuant to the intrafamily transfer provisions contained herein to a third party who is not a member of the owner's immediate family or a holder of a mortgage or deed of trust on the property, except as provided in Subsection B(5) above.
C. 
Incentives to cluster development. Clustering of subdivided lots in addition to that allowed within the base zones shall be permitted as follows:
(1) 
A cluster development (see Article XIV) shall be permitted in the RCZ, provided that the overall density in the RCZ is not increased.
(2) 
For those parcels which lie partially within and partially outside of the Critical Area Zones, clustering of development shall be permitted within the portion outside of the Critical Area Zones, provided that the following conditions are met:
(a) 
The requirements of cluster development (Article XIV) are met.
(b) 
The resulting density of the clustered area outside the Critical Area shall not exceed twice the density allowed by the underlying zone, and the resulting density on the entire parcel shall not exceed the base density allowed by the underlying zone.
(c) 
For computing the number of units which may be transferred outside the Critical Area, the net acreage will be equal to the total acreage of the parcel within the Critical Area minus the total acreage of tidal wetlands on the parcel. Transferable density shall be determined by the underlying base zone. For every lot created in the Resource Conservation Zone, 20 acres must be subtracted from the overall acreage used to calculate the amount of transferable units.
D. 
General regulations.
(1) 
Except as provided below, permitted uses, accessory uses and special exception uses in the Critical Area Zone shall be limited to those permitted within the existing applicable underlying base zone, as shown on the Official Charles County Zoning Maps.
(2) 
Existing industrial and commercial facilities, including those directly supporting agriculture, forestry and aquaculture, shall be allowed in the RCZ. Additional land may not be used in the RCZ for industrial or commercial development, except as provided in Figure IX-2. All other uses permissible in the underlying base zone shall require a growth allocation, as established in § 297-134.
Figure IX-2
Uses Permissible in the RCZ
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
Uses Permitted Without Additional Requirements Specific to the RCZ
Commercial assembly/repair of agricultural equipment (accessory to a farm)
Grain dryers and related structures (accessory to a farm)
Hunting and fishing cabins
Greenhouses (no on-premises sales)
Commercial kennels (minimum five acres required)
Tenant houses
Primary residences with accessory apartment (restricted to one dwelling unit per 20 acres)
Seafood processing and operations (accessory to on-site waterfront access or products raised on site)
Group homes (no more than eight occupants)
Day-care homes (less than seven care recipients)
Halfway houses (no more than nine occupants)
Elderly care homes (no more than eight occupants)
Rooming houses, boardinghouses rented by the month
Bed-and-breakfast, tourist homes
Shelters (no more than eight rooms or efficiencies)
Migrant workers' housing (occupants employed on owner's farm)
Helistops
Private and family burial sites
Park-and-ride facilities (public not-for-profit)
Blacksmith shops, welding shops, ornamental iron works, machine shops and sheet metal shops
Sawmills (accessory to on-site harvest)
Wineries
Wood/stump grinding (accessory to on-site harvest)
Uses Permitted with Maximum Lot Coverage of the Lesser of 15% of the Site Area or 20,000 square feet
Private elementary and secondary schools
Churches, synagogues and temples
Private libraries, museums, art centers and similar uses
Service organizations and nonprofit charitable organizations or institutions
Campgrounds and camps (areas of intensive activities, such as dormitories, dining halls, bath houses, tennis courts, etc., located outside of the RCZ or subject to growth allocation)
Fire stations, rescue squads and ambulance services (accessory uses such as dance and bingo halls subject to growth allocation)
Private use airport
Veterinary offices and hospitals (accessory to a farm)
Research facilities and laboratories (noncommercial only)
(3) 
The following uses are prohibited in the Critical Area Zone, except in the Intense Development Zone, due to their high potential for adverse impact on plant and wildlife habitats and water quality, only after it has been demonstrated that the activity will create a net improvement in water quality to the adjacent body of water.
(a) 
Nonmaritime heavy industry; and
(b) 
Transportation facilities and utility transmission facilities, except those necessary to serve permitted uses or where regional or interstate facilities must cross tidal waters (utility transmission facilities do not include power plants).
(4) 
The following uses are prohibited in the Critical Area Zone:
(a) 
New or expanded solid or hazardous waste collection or disposal facilities, excluding dumpsters and trash receptacles;
(b) 
New or expanded sanitary landfills; and
(c) 
New sludge handling, storage, and disposal facilities, other than those associated with wastewater treatment facilities; however, agricultural or horticultural use of sludge under appropriate approvals when applied by an approved method at approved application rates may be permitted. Charles County reserves the right to regulate the application of sludge, exterior to the Buffer in the Critical Area, and sludge application in the Buffer is prohibited.
(5) 
Sand and gravel operations, as defined in § 297-128 of this article, may be permitted as Special Exceptions in the Critical Area Zone if they are permissible by Special Exception in the underlying base zone, they comply with all other applicable sections of this chapter, and if the following requirements are met:
(a) 
Proposed surface mining operations, and expansions thereof, in the Critical Area Zone must assure that all available measures will be implemented to protect the Critical Area from sources of pollution, including, but not limited to, sedimentation, siltation, chemical and petrochemical use and spillage; and storage and/or disposal of water, dusts, and spoils.
(b) 
Surface mining within the Critical Area shall be prohibited in the following unsuitable areas:
[1] 
Areas where important natural resources, such as threatened and endangered species, are of unique scientific value or Habitat Protection Areas occur;
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
[2] 
Areas where highly erodible soils exist;
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
[3] 
Areas where the use of renewable resource lands would result in the substantial loss of long-range (that is, 25 years or more) productivity of forest and agriculture or would result in a degrading of water quality or a loss of vital habitat; or
[4] 
The lands within the Buffer extending a minimum of 100 feet from the mean high water line of tidal waters, or from the edge of perennial streams.
(c) 
Future wash plant facilities, including ponds, spoil piles and equipment, may not be located within the Buffer.
(d) 
The applicant will identify appropriate post-excavation uses for the land such as recreation, habitat restoration, open space use or development.
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(e) 
Upon the expiration and as a condition of renewal of the special exception permit for any existing sand and gravel operations within the Critical Area, the County will review the activity to assure that:
[1] 
To the fullest extent possible, extraction activities are separated by a minimum one-hundred-foot buffer of natural vegetation from the mean high water line of tidal waters or the edges of streams and tidal wetlands, whichever is farther inland.
[2] 
Existing wash ponds are to be reclaimed as soon as possible after cessation of the sand and gravel operation.
(6) 
The Planning Director may make reasonable accommodations to avoid discrimination on the basis of a physical disability and allow improvements to property that would not otherwise be permitted. Reasonable accommodations for the needs of disabled citizens may be permitted in accordance with the evidentiary requirements set forth in the following subsections:
[Added 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(a) 
An applicant shall have the burden of demonstrating that:
[1] 
The alterations will benefit persons with a disability within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
[2] 
Literal enforcement of the provisions of this article would result in discrimination by virtue of such disability;
[3] 
A reasonable accommodation would reduce or eliminate the discriminatory effect of the provisions of this article, or restore the disabled resident's or user's reasonable use or enjoyment of the property.
[4] 
The accommodation requested will not substantially impair the purpose, intent, or effect of the provisions of this chapter; and
[5] 
Environmental impacts associated with the accommodations are the minimum necessary to address the needs resulting from the particular disability of the applicant.
(b) 
The Planning Director may require, as a condition of approval, that, upon termination of the need for the accommodation, the property be restored to comply with all applicable provisions of this chapter. The Planning Director may require the posting of an appropriate bonds in order to ensure the County's ability to restore the property should the applicant fail to do so. The County is not precluded from placing a lien on the property to ensure the County's ability to restore the property should the applicant fail to do so.
(7) 
Agricultural activities outside of the buffer, including the clearing of new agricultural lands, are permitted under a soil conservation and water quality plan, approved by the Soil Conservation District, provided that:
[Added 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(a) 
A program of best management practices be implemented for the specific purposes of improving water quality and protecting plant and wildlife habitat by controlling the nutrient, animal waste, pesticide and sediment runoff generated by the agricultural activity;
(b) 
The best management practices shall include a requirement for the implementation of a nutrient management program where appropriate;
(c) 
The drainage, diking or filling of nontidal wetlands for the purpose of new agricultural lands is prohibited; and
(d) 
Agricultural activities, including the grazing of livestock, do not impact habitat protection areas as described in this article.
E. 
Woodland reforestation and afforestation standards outside of the Critical Area Buffer. Where reforestation or afforestation is required for development outside of the critical area buffer, a reforestation and/or afforestation plan shall be prepared in accordance with the Charles County Forest Conservation Ordinance.[1] The following conditions also apply:
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(1) 
Planting plans, bonds and inspections. Required planting plans shall be prepared and submitted with the site plan, preliminary plan or final subdivision plat. A planting plan shall be included as a required public improvement with site plans or subdivisions plats. The planting plan must demonstrate compliance with the minimum standards for reforestation and afforestation in the Charles County Forest Conservation Ordinance. The plans must also show:
(a) 
The site plan, building outlines (existing and proposed), walls, fences, parking spaces, loading spaces, driveways, walks, storage areas, public rights-of-way, easements and the general location of structures and uses of abutting properties;
(b) 
Existing and proposed grades; and
(c) 
Existing vegetative cover to be retained and the location, general size and type of such vegetation.
(d) 
Exact location, size and species of all required plantings.
(2) 
Plant materials and planting schedule.
(a) 
Tree or shrub species for afforestation or reforestation shall be Maryland natives, approved by the Planning Division for suitability. Areas planted to satisfy mitigation or offsetting requirements shall be designed to mimic the structure and species composition of the natural forest vegetation disturbed.
(b) 
All planting should be completed between the month of November and the month of May. For the first two years, steps should be taken to control competing vegetation. Technical assistance from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources or by the Charles County Forester is highly recommended.
(c) 
For the purpose of determining credits for planting materials, the following standards shall apply:
Material
Square Footage Credit
(square feet)
Large canopy tree at least 6 feet tall and 1 inch dbh
200
Understory tree at least 6 feet tall and 1 inch dbh
100
Bare root seedlings
50
Large shrubs 3-gallon and 3 to 4 feet high
50
Small shrubs 1-gallon and 18 inches high
25
Native grasses
Equal to area of coverage
Planting Cluster Type A: 1 canopy tree and either 3 large shrubs or 6 small shrubs
400
Planting Cluster Type B: 2 understory trees and either 3 large shrubs or 6 small shrubs
400
(3) 
The planting plan shall be accompanied by an estimate of the cost for all materials, labor and maintenance. Upon approval of the plan and the cost estimate, the applicant or owner shall enter into an agreement with the County to provide and maintain plantings as may be required. The Planning Division may require that a performance bond or other approved surety executed by the applicant or owner be provided for planting plans with estimated costs in excess of $5,000, in accordance with the standards set forth in the Charles County Forest Conservation Ordinance. In addition:
(a) 
If the foregoing costs exceed the amount of the deposit bond or other approved surety, the excess shall be a continuing obligation of the property owner.
(b) 
Failure to maintain, or replace any dead plant materials, shall result in a forfeiture of the surety posted for the amount necessary to replace the dead plant materials.
(c) 
Where existing vegetation is to be used to meet the requirements contained herein, the surety requirement may be modified appropriately. However, to the extent that existing vegetation is or will be inadequate to meet the standards set herein, a planting plan meeting all of the requirements herein must be submitted.
(d) 
All plantings shall be inspected by the County upon notification by the applicant or owner and shall be approved if they substantially accomplish the results shown in the planting plan.
(4) 
The replacement forest area should be located on the affected property or within the Critical Area whenever possible. Replacement areas shall also comply with the priorities for determining reforestation and afforestation areas set forth in the Charles County Forest Conservation Ordinance.[2] Replacement forest areas may be established in the following approved areas, in order of priority:
(a) 
Planting on a property owned by the applicant within the Critical Area.
(b) 
Planting on another property within the Critical Area not owned by the applicant with a permanent protective easement recorded.
(c) 
Planting on an abandoned sand and gravel extraction site(s) within or adjacent to the Mattawoman and Zekiah areas of critical state concern with a permanent protective easement recorded.
(d) 
Planting or natural regeneration on existing agricultural land within the critical area, outside of the Critical Area Buffer, approved by the County to create or enhance a forest environment with a permanent protective easement recorded.
(e) 
Retention of existing forest on historically used crop lands, as identified by aerial photos taken no earlier than 1970, and/or soil conservation plan records. Retention shall be at two times the required mitigation and recorded under a permanent conservation easement.
Mitigation provided in the form of any of the above methods shall be approved by the Planning Division and in place prior to approval of the associated development activity.
[2]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 298, Forest Conservation.
(5) 
Applicants who cannot comply with the mitigation requirements of this chapter either on-site or through off-site methods available must pay into a fee-in-lieu program. Any fees-in-lieu collected shall be placed in an account that will assure use of such fees only for projects within the critical area for the benefit of wildlife habitat, water quality improvement, critical area environmental education, or acquiring perpetual land preservation easements. Fees-in-lieu, as determined by the Charles County Commissioners and adopted annually, shall be assessed per square foot of mitigation remaining outstanding.
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 298, Forest Conservation.
F. 
Development standards in the Intense Development Zone (IDZ). All development and redevelopment in the IDZ shall be subject to the following development standards and/or conditions, in addition to those established elsewhere in this chapter:
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(1) 
All sites for which development activities are proposed shall identify environmental or natural features on that portion of site within the Critical Area.
(2) 
No structure or uses associated with development in an Intense Development Zone shall be permitted within the Buffer, except as provided for in § 297-131.
(3) 
Development and redevelopment shall be designed to conserve and enhance fish, wildlife, and plant habitats to the extent possible, subject to a habitat protection program and requirements of § 297-137.
(4) 
Roads, bridges or utilities are prohibited in a habitat protection area unless no feasible alternative exists. Roads, bridges and utilities that must cross a habitat protection area shall be located, designed, constructed and maintained so as to provide maximum erosion protection and minimize negative impacts to wildlife, aquatic life and their habitats, and maintain hydrologic processes and water quality.
(5) 
A development activity may not be located in a manner that will cross or affect a tributary stream unless no feasible alternative exists. All development activities which cross or affect tributary streams in the critical area shall:
(a) 
Cross the stream as close as possible to a ninety-degree angle;
(b) 
Minimize adverse impacts to water quality and stormwater runoff, and reduce increases in flood frequency and severity that are attributable to development;
(c) 
Provide for retention of natural stream bed substrate; and
(d) 
Retain existing tree canopy in the buffer.
(6) 
Development and redevelopment shall be designed to minimize the adverse water quality and quantity impact of stormwater and encourage the use of retrofitting measures to address existing stormwater management problems. Additionally, a development proposal shall be required to use stormwater management practices appropriate to site development which achieve a ten-percent reduction of predevelopment pollutant loadings. Applicants must comply with the most current ten-percent reduction guidance documents published by the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission.
(7) 
All nontidal wetlands shall be protected according to state regulations, except where they are adjacent to tidal waters, tidal wetlands, and/or a tributary stream, in which case they shall also be buffered according to County standards.
(8) 
Where the underlying zone permits cluster development, new residential subdivisions, as a means to reduce lot coverage and to maximize areas of natural vegetation, shall be required to use cluster development to the extent feasible.
(9) 
Proposed development and redevelopment activities shall include measures for stabilizing significantly eroding shoreline reaches on the proposed development site. Nonstructural shoreline erosion control measures shall be used unless it can be demonstrated that such measures would be impractical or ineffective.
G. 
Development standards in Limited Development Zone (LDZ) and Resource Conservation Zone (RCZ). All development and redevelopment in the LDZ and the RCZ shall be subject to the following development standards and/or conditions, in addition to those established elsewhere in this chapter:
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(1) 
All sites for which development activities are proposed shall identify environmental or natural features on that portion of site within the Critical Area.
(2) 
Site development shall be designed to assure that those features or resources identified as Habitat Protection Areas in § 297-137 are afforded protection as described in said section.
(3) 
Roads, bridges or utilities are prohibited in a Habitat Protection Area unless no feasible alternative exists. Roads, bridges and utilities that must cross a Habitat Protection Area shall be located, designed, constructed and maintained so as to provide maximum erosion protection and minimize negative impacts to wildlife, aquatic life and their habitats, and maintain hydrologic processes and water quality. Roads, bridges or utilities may not be located in any Habitat Protection Area unless no feasible alternative exists.
(4) 
A development activity may not be located in a manner that will cross or affect a tributary stream unless no feasible alternative exists. All development activities which cross or affect tributary streams in the Critical Area shall:
(a) 
Cross the stream as close as possible to a ninety-degree angle;
(b) 
Minimize adverse impacts to water quality and stormwater runoff, and reduce increases in flood frequency and severity that are attributable to development;
(c) 
Provide for retention of natural stream bed substrate; and
(d) 
Retain existing tree canopy in the Buffer.
(5) 
Development activities shall be located and designed to provide for the maintenance of the existing wildlife and plant habitats on the site and to maintain continuity with those on adjacent sites. When wildlife corridors exist or are proposed, they shall include any existing Habitat Protection Areas and connect large forested areas on or adjacent to the site.
(6) 
Forest and developed woodlands, as defined, shall be created or protected in accordance with the following:
(a) 
Developed woodland vegetation shall be conserved to the greatest extent practicable;
(b) 
The total acreage in forest coverage within the Critical Area shall be maintained or, preferably, increased;
(c) 
If no forest is established on a proposed development site, the site shall be planted to provide a forest or developed woodland cover of at least 15%. The location of the afforested area should be designed to reinforce protection to habitats on the site or to provide connections between forested areas when they are present on adjacent sites.
(d) 
When forests or developed woodland exists on the site and proposed development requires the cutting or clearing of trees, areas proposed for clearing shall be identified on the proposed development plan.
(e) 
The applicant shall submit proposed plans for development showing areas to be cleared, reforested and/or afforested to the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management.
(f) 
The Charles County Planning Division shall review all plans for clearing or cutting associated with proposed development activities. Approval for proposed development activities shall require that the proposed development activity has been reviewed and determined to be in compliance with the Charles County Critical Area Program.
(g) 
Cutting or clearing which is associated with development shall be subject to the following limits and replacement conditions:
[1] 
Removal of forest or developed woodland in the Buffer is prohibited, except as permitted under § 297-131;
[2] 
All forested areas cleared or developed woodland removed shall be mitigated in accordance with Subsection E;
[3] 
No more than 20% of the forested or developed woodland within the site proposed for development may be removed (except as provided for below), and the remainder shall be maintained as forest cover through the use of appropriate legal instruments as approved by the County;
[4] 
The clearing of forest or developed woodland of up to 20% shall be mitigated on an area basis of 1:1;
[5] 
An applicant may propose clearing up to 30% of the forest or developed woodland on a site, but if greater than 20% of the forest or developed woodland is removed, then the clearing shall be mitigated at the rate of 1.5 times the entire area removed;
[6] 
Clearing of more than 30% of the forest or developed woodland on a site shall require the approval of the Charles County Board of Appeals. Once approved, mitigation shall be required at a rate of three times the area cleared; and
[7] 
Clearing on residential lots 1/2 acre or less in size that were in existence on or before December 1, 1985, may exceed 30% of the existing forest or developed woodland, provided that it is limited to the minimum amount necessary to accommodate a principal structure, including decks, patios, and accessory structures, and does not exceed 8,000 square feet. Mitigation shall be required at a ratio of 1:1.
(h) 
Limited cutting or clearing of trees and shrubs is allowable for the following non-development-related purposes only, provided that clearing is limited to the minimum amount necessary to complete the proposed project and is subject to approval by the Planning Division under a County tree removal authorization (for under 1,000 square feet of disturbance), a zoning permit, and/or grading permit:
[1] 
For personal use, provided that trees and shrubs cut are replaced on an equal area basis;
[2] 
To prevent trees from falling and blocking streams, causing damage to dwellings or other structures or resulting in accelerated erosion of the shore or streambank;
[3] 
In conjunction with horticultural practices used to maintain the health of individual trees; or
[4] 
To protect trees from extensive pest or disease infestation with the advice of the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Natural Resources.
(i) 
Surety in the form of a performance bond or other means acceptable to the County shall be provided in accordance with Subsection E.
(j) 
The forests and developed woodland required to be retained or created through afforestation or reforestation efforts off-site, in accordance with Subsection E, shall be maintained through restrictive covenants, easements or similar instruments in a form approved by the County.
(k) 
Applicants who cannot comply with reforestation or afforestation requirements above may pay into a fee-in-lieu program. Any fees-in-lieu collected shall be placed into an account that will assure use of the fees only for projects within the Critical Area for the benefit of wildlife habitat, water quality improvement or environmental education. Fees-in-lieu, as determined by the Charles County Commissioners and adopted annually, shall be assessed per square foot for each square foot of reforestation or afforestation required that cannot be satisfied on site or at an approved off-site location.
(l) 
If the cutting of forests and/or developed woodland occurs before a required grading permit, zoning permit or tree removal authorization has been obtained, the forest and/or developed woodland is required to be replanted according to § 297-135.
(m) 
Commercial harvesting of trees is permitted, under a Timber Harvest Plan approved by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), provided that cutting or clearing within Habitat Protection Areas conserves wildlife and habitat, under a Habitat Management Plan approved by the Wildlife and Heritage Division of DNR. Harvesting within the Critical Area Buffer is additionally subject to a Buffer Management Plan approved by the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management, Planning Division.
(7) 
Development on slopes of 15% or greater shall be prohibited.
(8) 
Lot coverage requirements.
(a) 
Lot coverage shall be limited to 15% of a parcel or lot, except as otherwise provided below in this subsection.
(b) 
Lot coverage is limited to 25% of the parcel or lot if the parcel or lot is 1/2 acre or less in size and existed on or before December 1, 1985.
(c) 
If a parcel or lot greater than 1/2 acre and less than one acre in size existed on or before December 1, 1985, then lot coverage is limited to 15% of the parcel or lot.
(d) 
Lot coverage in a subdivision approved after December 1, 1985, may not exceed 15%. However, the total lot coverage on an individual lot one acre or less in size may exceed 15%.
[1] 
To demonstrate compliance with lot coverage requirements outlined in Subsection G(8)(d) above, proposed lot coverage calculations shall be provided to the Planning Division for review prior to approval of any preliminary subdivision plan, subdivision plat, lot consolidation, or lot reconfiguration.
(e) 
This subsection does not apply to a trailer park that was in residential use on or before December 1, 1985.
(f) 
The Charles County Planning Division may allow a property owner to exceed the lot coverage limits provided above in Subsection G(8)(b) through (d) of this section, if the following conditions exist and if the following actions are taken:
[1] 
The owner submits a written request detailing the purpose and justification of the need to exceed lot coverage limits;
[2] 
New lot coverage associated with new development activities on the property has been minimized;
[3] 
For a lot or parcel 1/2 acre or less in size, lot coverage does not exceed lot coverage limits in applicable Subsection G(8)(a) through (d) of this section by more than 25% or 500 square feet, whichever is greater;
[4] 
For a lot or parcel greater than 1/2 acre and less than one acre in size, total lot coverage does not exceed lot coverage limits in applicable Subsection G(8)(a) through (d) of this section or 5,445 square feet, whichever is greater;
[5] 
Water quality impacts associated with runoff from the new development activities that contribute to lot coverage can be and have been minimized through site design considerations or use of best management practices approved by the local jurisdiction to improve water quality. Minimization shall be demonstrated through engineered calculations or other methods approved by the County;
[6] 
The property owner performs on-site mitigation with natural forest vegetation covering an area twice the extent of the new lot coverage to offset potential adverse water quality impacts from the new development activities that contribute to lot coverage, or, if on-site mitigation or approved off-site mitigation is not feasible, the property owner pays a fee-in-lieu to the County at the rate determined by the Charles County Commissioners and adopted annually for each square foot of mitigation that cannot be met on-site or at an approved off-site location; and
[7] 
The property is not located in a Buffer Modification Area.
(g) 
When a portion of a lot or parcel is located within the Limited Development Zone or Resource Conservation Zone, lot coverage shall be limited to 15% of that portion of the lot or parcel that is designated LDZ and 15% of that portion that is designated as RCZ.
(h) 
In the case of a growth allocation award, to the Limited Development Zone, lot coverage shall be limited to:
[1] 
Fifteen percent of the growth allocation development envelope; or
[2] 
Fifteen percent of the acreage proposed for growth allocation deduction.
(i) 
Where the underlying zone permits cluster development, new residential subdivisions, as a means to reduce lot coverage and to maximize areas of natural vegetation, shall be required to use cluster development to the extent feasible.
(9) 
All nontidal wetlands shall be protected according to state regulations, except where they are associated with a stream, in which case they shall also be buffered according to County standards.
(10) 
Proposed development and redevelopment activities shall include measures for stabilizing significantly eroding shoreline reaches on the proposed development site or otherwise protecting property as established in the Charles County Critical Area Program. Nonstructural shoreline erosion control measures shall be used unless it can be conclusively demonstrated that such measures would be impractical or ineffective.
H. 
Habitat Protection Areas. All proposed development activities shall be subject to the habitat protection program and requirements of § 297-136. In addition, the following regulations shall also apply:
(1) 
Applicants for subdivision or development activities shall be required to map any Habitat Protection Areas that are located on the project site or that may be affected by the proposed development.
(2) 
If it is determined that the proposed development activity has the potential to negatively affect the function of a Habitat Protection Area, the applicant will be required to develop a Habitat Protection Plan as specified in § 297-136 of this chapter.
I. 
Critical Area Commission notification procedures for the processing of subdivisions and site development plans.
[Added 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
(1) 
Within 10 days of approval or denial by the critical area planner, a copy of the site plan and/or subdivision drawing shall be sent to the Critical Area Commission for its file.
(2) 
Should changes be made to the drawing/plan that the critical area planner deems are relevant to critical area review, the critical area planner shall determine if a new review is needed and provide any resultant copies to the Critical Area Commission for its file. Should the critical area planner determine that changes made are considered inconsequential to critical area review, the prior approval or denial shall remain valid.
(3) 
Upon final approval or denial of a site plan or subdivision by the Department of Planning and Growth Management, the critical area planner shall provide a copy of the approval or denial letter issued by the County to the Critical Area Commission for its file.
[Amended 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
All development activities proposed in the Critical Area require the submission of a site plan and the Charles County Critical Area form for County approval. The site plan requirements found in Appendix A of this chapter shall be made part of this article for purposes of development review.[1] The Planning Director or designee may accept a site plan that does not meet all of the requirements of Appendix A should it be determined by the Planning Director that the information in question is not essential to the review of the development activity.
[1]
Editor's Note: Appendix A is included as an attachment to this chapter.
[Amended 10-25-1994 by Ord. No. 94-93; 11-21-1994 by Ord. No. 94-99; 2-10-1998 by Ord. No. 98-59; 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
A. 
Purpose and intent. Growth allocation is the system by which Critical Area overlay zones are redesignated to allow for denser development. Growth allocation may be used in existing limited development zones or in resource conservation zones. The purpose of the growth allocation system is to designate areas within the Critical Area where the County Commissioners may approve a change in the current Critical Area overlay zone on specific sites and for specific development projects. Only specific development projects, site plans, preliminary subdivisions or planned development zones regulated under Article VII of this chapter may be considered by the County Commissioners for a growth allocation award. The County Commissioners must approve growth allocation prior to general approval of the development projects with which they are associated, although review may occur simultaneously with the growth allocation application. Growth allocation approval may be contingent upon other local, state and federal approvals.
B. 
Location criteria. The granting of growth allocation shall be consistent with the Charles County Critical Area Program. When approving the Growth Allocation Zone, the County Commissioners shall use the following standards to determine if the location of the proposed Critical Area Zone under the GA Zone classification is consistent with the Charles County Critical Area Program:
(1) 
Locate a new IDZ in an existing LDZ or adjacent to an existing IDZ;
(2) 
A new IDZ must be a minimum of 20 acres unless it is adjacent to an existing IDZ or LDZ; and
(3) 
Locate a new LDZ adjacent to an existing LDZ or IDZ.
(4) 
Locate a new LDZ or IDZ in a manner that minimizes impacts to a habitat protection area as defined in COMAR 27.01.09 and in an area and manner that optimizes benefits to water quality.
(5) 
Locate a new IDZ or an LDZ in an RCZ at least 300 feet beyond the landward edge of tidal wetlands or tidal waters unless the local jurisdiction proposes, and the Commission approves, alternative measures for enhancement of water quality and habitat that provide greater benefits to the resources.
(6) 
Locate new IDZ and LDZ in a manner that minimizes their impacts to the defined land uses of the RCZ.
(7) 
Except as provided in Subsection B(9), no more than 1/2 of the expansion may be located in the RCZ.
(8) 
New IDZs or LDZs involving the use of growth allocation shall conform to all criteria of the Commission and shall be designated on the comprehensive Zoning Map submitted as part of an application to the Commission for program approval or at a later date in compliance with Natural Resources Article § 8-1809(g), Annotated Code of Maryland.
(9) 
If the County is unable to utilize a portion of the growth allocated to the County within or adjacent to existing IDZs or LDZs as demonstrated in the local plan approved by the Commission, then that portion of the allocated expansion which cannot be so located may be located in the RCZ. A developer shall be required to cluster any development in area of expansion authorized under this standard.
C. 
Design criteria. Growth allocation applications shall comply with the following design criteria:
(1) 
The design of development projects which use growth allocation awards must minimize impacts to Habitat Protection Areas and optimize benefits to water quality;
(2) 
The designation of development projects which use growth allocation awards must provide adequate protection to historic and archaeological resources listed on state or local surveys or properties on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places;
(3) 
When growth allocation is permitted in an RCZ not adjacent to an IDZ or LDZ, the applicant will be required to cluster the development and provide for resource enhancement in the design of such development;
(4) 
All Habitat Protection Area issues must be identified and addressed, and preliminary habitat protection plans must be approved by the Planning Division;
(5) 
All Critical Area Commission standards must be met by the project; and
(6) 
The project must conform with the Charles County Critical Area Program at the time of development.
(7) 
The project application must consider and address the following factors:
(a) 
Consistency with the Comprehensive Plan and its goals and objectives;
(b) 
For a new IDZ, whether the development:
[1] 
Is served by a public wastewater system;
[2] 
Has an allowed average density of at least 3.5 units per acre, as calculated under § 5-7B-03(h) of the State Finance and Procurement Article, Annotated Code of Maryland;
[3] 
Is located within a priority funding area, when the project area exceeds 20 acres; and
[4] 
Demonstrates an economic benefit to the area;
(c) 
For a new LDZ, whether the development:
[1] 
Is served by a public wastewater system or septic system that uses the best available nitrogen removal technology;
[2] 
Is a completion or expansion of an existing subdivision or is clustered;
(d) 
Minimizes impacts to priority preservation areas, as designated by Charles County;
(e) 
Minimizes environmental impacts associated with wastewater and stormwater practices and discharges; and
(f) 
Minimizes environmental impacts associated with location in a coastal hazard area or increased flooding attributable to the proposed development.
D. 
Basis for determining maximum permitted density. Maximum permitted densities will be computed based on the total site area less the area occupied by tidal wetlands. The maximum density that will be permitted using growth allocation awards shall be limited as follows, depending on which is the more restrictive:
(1) 
The total number of approved individual septic systems or total number of units approved for community facilities by the Charles County Health Department, Maryland Department of the Environment, or the Charles County Department of Planning and Growth Management; or
(2) 
The maximum number of dwelling units permitted under all applicable zones.
E. 
Conditions of approval. The development of a proposed project must demonstrate that the following design standards will be met or exceeded in order to be approved:
(1) 
All applicable requirements of the Charles County Critical Area Program, this chapter and the Subdivision Regulations.[1]
[1]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 278, Subdivision Regulations.
(2) 
The design of the development enhances the water quality and resource and habitat values of the area, e.g., results in additional planting of forest cover in the Buffer and implementation of Best Management Practices on portions of the site to be retained in agriculture use.
(3) 
The development incorporates the comments and recommendations of County and the Department of Natural Resources in the project design.
(4) 
The applicant executes restrictive covenants or conservation easements that guarantee maintenance of the required open space areas.
(5) 
The proposed project maximizes the use of permanent conservation easement and minimizes the use of the County's Growth Allocation.
F. 
Computing the use of the growth allocation. Growth allocation acreage shall be computed in one of two ways:
(1) 
The total Critical Area portion of the parcel or set of parcels not in tidal wetlands, less Buffers, that are 300 feet or greater shall be subtracted from the County's total growth allocation set forth in the Charles County Critical Area Program for approved Growth Allocation Zones.
(2) 
Development envelopes may be used to calculate growth allocation acreage. Projects must meet the following requirements:
(a) 
Only one development envelope shall be established per parcel or set of parcels, unless it can be demonstrated that multiple development envelopes will better promote environmental and other conservation considerations of the Charles County Critical Area Program. The use of multiple development envelopes shall be allowed only if such a practice is consistent with Critical Area Commission policy or regulations.
(b) 
If a development envelope is proposed in the RCZ and less than 20 acres remain outside the development envelope, or the original parcel in the RCZ is less than 20 acres, then the entire parcel must be deducted.
(c) 
If there is a permanently protected RCZ which is contiguous to acreage outside the development envelope resulting in a minimum of 20 acres in the RCZ, then the entire parcel does not have to be deducted.
G. 
Procedures. The County's growth allocation acreage will be awarded on a project-by-project basis to permit changes in the Critical Area boundaries that are consistent with the Charles County Critical Area Program, Charles County Comprehensive Plan and the base zoning when a specific development project is proposed. The following procedures will be followed in determining if a site qualifies for the application of growth allocation:
(1) 
All projects that require growth allocation for completion must apply for growth allocation at the earliest development review stage to which the projects are subject.
(2) 
At the request of the applicant, the Department of Planning and Growth Management will review concept, sketch or comprehensive development plans submitted for consistency with the Critical Area Program and will provide general comments and recommendations to the applicant prior to submission of preliminary site plans or plats or applications for a Planned Development Zone.
(3) 
Applicants for growth allocation will request that the County Commissioners designate a Growth Allocation Zone to their project site.
(4) 
All applications for the Growth Allocation Zone shall be accompanied by a preliminary site plan or preliminary subdivision plan or application for a Planned Development Zone prepared as per the requirements of this chapter and/or the County's Subdivision Regulations.[2]
[2]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 278, Subdivision Regulations.
(5) 
Growth allocation applications are accepted in the months of February, May, August, and November, upon payment of the growth allocation request fee.
(6) 
Upon receipt of application and plans, the Zoning Officer will review the materials for completeness. Incomplete applications will be returned with comments within 30 days of submission.
(7) 
Upon receipt of a complete submission, the Zoning Officer will review the application package and the request for growth allocation and provide comments and evaluation to the applicant within 45 business days.
(8) 
After revising the growth allocation application and plan, and other supporting information based on the initial review, the applicant may resubmit the application. Once an application has been deemed complete and has been found in compliance with the Charles County Critical Area Program and applicable sections of all County ordinances, the Zoning Officer shall proceed in accordance with time frames set forth in § 297-448 of this chapter.
(9) 
The Zoning Officer will review the proposed project and submit his or her recommendations to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will hold a public meeting on all submissions, which shall include the following:
(a) 
Presentation of the project by the applicant;
(b) 
Staff analysis review comments and evaluation; and
(c) 
Submission of public comments.
(10) 
The Planning Commission will then prepare and forward its report and recommendations on the proposed project and the report, evaluation and recommendations of the Zoning Officer to the County Commissioners. The applicant may amend the application based on the Planning Commission, staff or public comments at any time, but may be subject to new review by planning staff, the Zoning Officer and/or the Planning Commission.
(11) 
Public hearing. After the Planning Commission makes its final recommendations, the County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the growth allocation reclassification for the proposed development project. The public hearing shall include:
(a) 
Presentation of the project by the applicant;
(b) 
Staff review, comments and recommendations; and
(c) 
Planning Commission review, comments and recommendations; and public testimony.
(12) 
Approval. In order to approve a growth allocation application, the County Commissioners must find that the proposed project, with its growth allocation plan, meets growth allocation design and location criteria, is sufficient to achieve the purposes of the critical area classification requested and the underlying base zone or Planned Development Zone, is compatible with the surrounding area and is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. The approval of a growth allocation request shall establish special conditions to be satisfied during the development process, including, but not limited to, an initial phasing schedule as required by § 297-134I(3), the timing of construction, on-site and off-site improvements, buffering, environmental standards and requirements and fiscal impact limitations.
(13) 
In approving an application for growth allocation, the County Commissioners may establish additional conditions of approval consistent with the intent of the Charles County Critical Area Program.
(14) 
Final decision. Following the public hearing, the County Commissioners will make the final decision whether or not to grant the reclassification, and determine any specific conditions of approval, including approval of an initial phasing schedule.
(15) 
The County Commissioners will then forward the request for use of growth allocation to the Critical Area Commission to be considered as either a program amendment or program refinement.
(16) 
Upon final approval of the growth allocation and conditions of approval by the County Commissioners and the Critical Area Commission, the conditions of approval shall be formalized in the form of a zoning indenture.
(17) 
The applicant may proceed to the next steps of development approval, once the indenture has been finalized and recorded in Charles County's land records.
(18) 
Subsequent to the approval of the growth allocation, the applicant will provide payment of the growth allocation fee and the official Critical Area Maps shall be amended.
(19) 
An updated phasing schedule will be submitted simultaneously with each preliminary subdivision plan and/or site plan for review and approval.
(20) 
Prior to approving the final site plan or subdivision plat, the Planning Commission will ensure that all conditions of approval of growth allocation are incorporated into the final plan, performance agreements, deed covenants, etc.
(21) 
Final subdivision plats and site plans shall be processed as per the requirements of this chapter and the Subdivision Regulations.[3]
[3]
Editor's Note: See Ch. 278, Subdivision Regulations.
H. 
Objectives for applying the growth allocation.
(1) 
Growth allocation proposals must provide a net positive fiscal impact to the County.
(2) 
Fifty percent of the total growth allocation acreage will be reserved for commercial and industrial uses.
I. 
Growth allocation plan. Any application for designation as a Growth Allocation Zone shall be accompanied by a growth allocation plan which contains all information necessary to evaluate the proposal, including, but not limited to, the following:
(1) 
Justification and written discussion of how the project meets growth allocation location and design criteria described earlier in Subsections B and C of this section.
(2) 
Justification and written discussion of how the project meets or exceeds design standards listed in Subsection E of this section.
(3) 
Schedule and phasing with approximate dates for beginning and completion of each phase of construction and projected market absorption.
(4) 
A report showing fiscal impact of the proposed project on the County.
(5) 
A statement showing the relationship of the proposed development to the Charles County Comprehensive Plan.
(6) 
A description of the surrounding area of the subject property that will be affected by the requested growth allocation classification.
(7) 
A site plan illustrating necessary components of the proposal.
(8) 
Any additional materials necessary to satisfy the Critical Area Commission's growth allocation submittal regulations, COMAR 27.01.02.05-1.
J. 
Growth allocation review.
(1) 
The Planning Division shall review the progress of the development on an annual basis to determine whether or not the development is meeting the goals and objectives of the growth allocation, the conditions of the growth allocation and/or the most recently approved phasing schedule. If the Planning Division determines that the development is not meeting the goals and objectives of the growth allocation, the conditions of the growth allocation and/or the phasing schedule and the applicant is not making good-faith efforts to address these elements, the Planning Division may refer the development to the Planning Commission for its review and recommendation.
(2) 
Upon referral from the Planning Division, the Planning Commission will review the growth allocation to determine whether or not the development is meeting the goals and objectives of the growth allocation, the conditions of the growth allocation and/or the most recently approved phasing schedule. If the Planning Commission finds that the development is not meeting the goals and objectives of the growth allocation, the conditions of the growth allocation and/or the phasing schedule and the applicant is not making good-faith efforts to address these elements, the Planning Commission may recommend to the County Commissioners that appropriate action be taken, which may include a recommendation that the growth allocation be withdrawn.
(3) 
The County Commissioners will hold a public hearing upon receipt of the recommendation from the Planning Commission. If the County Commissioners determine that the development is not meeting the goals and objectives of the growth allocation, the conditions of the growth allocation and/or the most recently approved phasing schedule and the applicant is not making good-faith efforts to address these elements, the County Commissioners may take whatever action they deem necessary, to include withdrawal of the growth allocation.
[Added 10-25-1994 by Ord. No. 94-93; amended 6-20-2005 by Bill No. 2005-12; 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
A. 
A development activity commenced without a required permit, approval, variance, or special exception is a violation of Natural Resources Article § 8-1808, Annotated Code of Maryland, and Article IX of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance and Critical Area Program. Violations in the Critical Area will be enforced in accordance with Article I of this chapter, except for:
(1) 
Notwithstanding § 297-4A, regarding the maximum fine of $300, and in addition to any other penalty applicable under state or County law, each person who violates a provision of the Natural Resources Article, Title 8, Subtitle 18, or this chapter, including a contractor, property owner, or any other person who committed, assisted, authorized, or participated in the violation, is subject to a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000, per offense, per day.
(2) 
Civil penalties for continuing violations shall accrue without a requirement for an additional assessment, notice or opportunity for a hearing for each separate offense.
(3) 
In determining the amount of the penalty to be assessed under Subsection A, the County shall consider the following:
(a) 
The gravity of the violation;
(b) 
Any willfulness or negligence involved in the violation;
(c) 
The environmental impact of the violation; and
(d) 
The cost of restoration of the resource affected by the violation and mitigation for damage to that resource, including the cost to the County for performing, supervising, or rendering assistance to the restoration and mitigation.
(4) 
The amount of the civil penalty shall be at a minimum according to the following schedule, not exceeding $10,000 per offense, per day:
Minor Infraction
Moderate Infraction
Major Infraction
First offense
$50
$100
$500
Second offense
$100
$200
$500
Third offense
$150
$300
$500
Subsequent offenses
$200
$400
$500
(5) 
The Zoning Officer shall determine whether the violation constitutes a minor, moderate, or major infraction, as defined by this chapter.
(6) 
Each calendar day that a violation continues is a separate offense.
(7) 
Each violation of this chapter constitutes a separate offense.
(8) 
For each offense, a person shall be subject to separate fines, orders, sanctions, and other penalties.
B. 
The following additional penalties shall also apply:
(1) 
The area disturbed shall be restored and additional required remediation shall include the planting of forest vegetation native to southern Maryland and adaptable to site conditions, in accordance with § 297-132E of this article, in the amount of three times the area disturbed or four times the area disturbed if the violating disturbance is located within the Critical Area Buffer.
(2) 
A restoration and mitigation plan shall be reviewed and approved by the Planning Division prior to the commencement of restoration and mitigation activities.
(3) 
The Buffer shall be the first priority for replanting wherever possible.
(4) 
Planting shall take place within one calendar year of the notification of violation with the exception of Subsection D below. Failure to complete required mitigation plantings will result in a civil penalty at the rate determined by the Charles County Commissioners and adopted annually and shall be assessed per square foot of land remediation required.
(5) 
For restoration or mitigation that exceeds 1,000 square feet or involves expenses exceeding $1,000, a bond or other financial security shall be required to be posted to ensure that the restoration or mitigation is properly completed. If the restoration or mitigation involves planting, the bond shall be held for at least two years after the date the plantings were installed to ensure plant survival.
C. 
Notice of violation; prerequisites to permit issuance.
(1) 
An application for a variance to legalize a violation of this chapter cannot be accepted unless a notice of violation has been issued to the property owner.
(2) 
The County may not issue a permit, approval, variance or special exception for a property unless the property owner seeking the permit, approval, variance, or special exception has:
(a) 
Fully paid all administrative, civil, and criminal penalties imposed;
(b) 
Prepared a restoration or mitigation plan approved by the local jurisdiction, to abate impacts to water quality or natural resources as a result of the violation; and
(c) 
Performed the abatement measures in the approved plan in accordance with the Critical Area Program.
D. 
A person may appeal a notice of violation as an appeal of an administrative decision in accordance with § 297-417. Should the Board of Appeals determine that a violation has occurred, the person shall be liable for a penalty that is twice the amount of the assessment in the notice of violation. An application for a variance to legalize a violation of this chapter constitutes a waiver of the appeals process as provided in § 297-417.
[Added 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
A. 
Variances in the critical area will be enforced in accordance with Article XXV of this chapter.
(1) 
No permits shall be issued for a development activity subject to a variance until the applicable thirty-day appeal period has elapsed.
B. 
The Planning Director may grant an administrative variance from the requirements of this article for legal nonconforming structures in existence as of June 10, 1989, as follows:
(1) 
Based upon a preponderance of evidence the Planning Director shall find:
(a) 
The proposed development activity does not result in increased lot coverage beyond the existing setbacks of the legal nonconforming structure;
(b) 
Total lot coverage for the parcel or lot does not exceed lot coverage requirements specified in § 297-132G(8);
(c) 
Special conditions or circumstances exist that are peculiar to the land or structure such that literal enforcement of the provisions of this chapter would result in unwarranted hardship to the property owner;
(d) 
A literal interpretation of this section would deprive the property owner of rights commonly enjoyed by other property owners in the same zone;
(e) 
The granting of the administrative variance will not confer upon the property owner any special privilege that would be denied by this section to other owners of lands or structures within the same zone;
(f) 
The variance request is not based upon conditions or circumstances which are the result of actions by the property owner nor does the request arise from any condition relating to land or building use, either permitted or nonconforming, on any neighboring property;
(g) 
The granting of an administrative variance will not adversely affect water quality or adversely impact fish, wildlife, or plant habitat and the granting of the variance will be in harmony with the general spirit and intent of the critical area law and the Charles County Critical Area Program; and
(h) 
The variance shall not exceed the minimum necessary to relieve the unwarranted hardship.
(2) 
Notice of the variance proposal shall be published once in a newspaper of general circulation in the jurisdiction at least 15 days before variance approval.
(3) 
The Planning Director may require conditions for variance approval, including site design conditions or mitigation, to minimize adverse impacts on water quality or fish, wildlife, or plant habitat.
(4) 
A person aggrieved or feeling aggrieved by a decision of the Planning Director made under this subsection may appeal the decision de novo to the Board of Appeals.
(5) 
Planning staff shall provide to the Critical Area Commission a copy of the variance application at least 15 days prior to approval or denial by the Planning Director. A copy of the written decision regarding an administrative variance shall be provided to the Critical Area Commission within five working days after a written decision is issued.
[Added 6-19-2012 by Bill No. 2011-12]
A. 
Habitat protection areas. The following areas are considered habitat protection areas. Review by the Department of Natural Resources and a habitat protection plan may be required prior to approval of a development activity that may impact a habitat protection area.
(1) 
Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Buffer;
(2) 
Habitats of threatened and endangered species and species in need of conservation;
(3) 
Bald eagle protection zones;
(4) 
Nontidal wetlands;
(5) 
Natural heritage areas, as designated by the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources;
(6) 
Colonial water bird nesting sites;
(7) 
Historic waterfowl staging and concentration areas;
(8) 
Forests containing forest interior dwelling bird species;
(9) 
Anadromous fish propagation waters; and
(10) 
Additional plant and wildlife habitat areas determined by the Charles County Commissioners to be of local significance. If additional plant and wildlife habitat areas are designated in the future, local public hearings, as appropriate, shall be held to consider comments on the areas and protection measures proposed.
B. 
Habitat protection plans. The following process applies to the development and implementation of a habitat protection plan:
(1) 
The applicant will obtain a review letter from the Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Division, and present that letter to the Planning Division at the earliest stage of development. Review by the Department of Natural Resources is not required for bald eagle protection zones.
(2) 
The applicant will propose a habitat protection plan for the identified habitat protection area.
(3) 
The habitat protection plan will:
(a) 
Delineate the boundaries of the habitat protection area;
(b) 
Propose management guidelines in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Department of Natural Resources, and included in Appendix O;[1] and
[1]
Editor's Note: Appendix O is included as an attachment to this chapter.
(c) 
Contain a detailed plan of the proposed activity and an analysis of possible adverse impacts associated with the proposed activity.
(4) 
The Planning Division, in consultation with appropriate local, state and/or federal agencies, will review the proposed protection measures to determine if protection measures are adequate for the species or habitat area.
(5) 
Revisions to the habitat protection plan may be necessary to incorporate the comments of the reviewing agencies.
(6) 
Once all of the requirements and comments have been adequately addressed, the Planning Division may approve the habitat protection plan.
(7) 
The habitat protection plan shall be incorporated into the proposed development proposal. No preliminary subdivision plan, final plat, site plan, infrastructure or building permit may be approved until the habitat protection plan has been approved and incorporated into the development proposal.