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Frequently Asked Questions

Critical Area

  • What is the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area?
    The Critical Area is the land area 1,000 feet inland from tidal water or tidal wetlands. The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program promotes more sensitive development within the Critical Area to help protect water quality and wildlife habitat. Of particular importance are restrictions on construction, clearing, and vegetation management within the minimum 100-foot buffer along the shoreline.
  • What is a buffer in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area?
    The minimum 100’ buffer is a naturally wooded area or a forested area specifically established or managed to protect aquatic, wetland, shoreline, and terrestrial environments from man-made disturbances. The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area buffer is located 100 feet inland from the mean high water line of tidal water, tidal wetlands, or tributary streams. The 100-foot buffer is expanded to include any contiguous sensitive areas, including all land within 50 feet of the top of a steep slope.
  • I live in the Critical Area and I have a dead tree that I want to remove. Do I need a permit?
    Yes. All vegetation removal including dead or damaged trees requires an approved Vegetation Management Plan prior to removal.
  • If I propose to remove a live tree or clear live vegetation in the Critical Area, will I have to replant anything?
    Yes. Critical Area law requires replacement planting for any clearing activity in the Critical Area. Replanting is to be accomplished with native plant species.
  • My realtor told me that I could cut any trees on my waterfront lot that are less than 4 inches in diameter, and I don’t need a permit. Is this true?
    No, this is NOT true! We hear this question at least several times a week. All trees of any size, as well as shrubs and vines, are considered habitat in the Critical Area and are subject to the Critical Area law requirements. Please contact the Forester in the Compliance Division of Inspections and Permits (410.222.7441) BEFORE you cut any trees on your waterfront lot.
  • When is a vegetation management plan (or buffer management plan) required in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area?
    Any disturbance in the 100-foot or expanded buffer will require a buffer management plan approved by Inspections and Permits. Disturbance includes cutting or removing vegetation (trees, shrubs, vines) and any grading or filling activity.In addition to a buffer management plan, a property owner may need approval from the Department of Inspections and Permits. This approval comes in the form of a grading permit for disturbances greater than 5,000 square feet. For disturbances under 5,000 square feet, a property owner may seek approval of a more simplified, standard grading plan (also known as standard lot sheet) instead of a grading permit.
  • Who prepares a buffer management plan?
    For removal of individual trees, construction of nonstructural water access paths, and small-scale tree pruning, the property owner can prepare and sign a standard buffer form. For removal of a large number of trees, large scale pruning, and replacing vines and briars with desirable understory plants, the property owner will likely need a buffer management plan prepared by a professional.
  • Can I remove invasive species (phragmites, English ivy, poison ivy, greenbriar) from my buffer?
    Yes. The County encourages the removal of invasive species. However, you must have a County-approved vegetation management plan and plant the area with native species that suppress the re-growth of the invasive species. Contact the Forester in the Compliance Division of Inspections and Permits at (410) 222-7441 for a list of native species plants or see the For more information Link below.
  • What does the County do with the fees it collects from property owners for the removal of trees in the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area?
    The County uses that money to replant trees elsewhere within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.

 

Environmental Protection

  • How do I report a potential environmental violation or file a complaint?
    Call the Environmental Hotline at (410) 222-7777. It is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you know the street address of the potential violation, please leave that information with the Hotline service. If possible, an inspection will be done the same day.
  • The storm drain is apparently clogged; whom do I call?
    If you reside in a community that is still under development, most likely the developer is still responsible for the maintenance. You should contact the Infrastructure Inspection Division at (410) 222-7784. If you reside in an established community, chances are the Department of Public Works, Road Operations, is responsible for maintenance. Road Operations District numbers are as follows: Northern District (410) 222-7045; Central District (410) 222-7940; Southern District (410) 222-1933; Administration (410) 222-7045.