Builders: A Proposed Septic Ban -- An Anti-Job Policy for Maryland

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By Steven P. Seawright

The Governor’s announcement that he intends to ban installation of septic systems in new residential subdivisions containing 5 or more homes is an extreme measure that would neither clean up the Bay nor fix Maryland’s broken Smart Growth Policy. The only clear result of such an overreach is that it counters any effort to create new jobs.

Thousands of acres of land outside the planned water and sewer service areas in the Counties across Maryland are zoned for residential development -- prohibiting the use of septic systems will substantially reduce the potential property tax revenue of local the jurisdictions and undermine our ability to pay for the expensive Bay Cleanup effort. Further, a septic ban will undermine rural areas plans for community schools and other related municipal facilities that need to build where public sewer is not currently available.

Recently, an editorial cited that “Experts forecast that developers will add 145,000 new septic systems over the next 20 years.” That number produces 7,000 permits per year for next 20 years.

However, recent construction statistics do not bear this out -- in 2009, we did 6,400 total single family permits (includes all single family permits). The permit number for 2010 is even lower. The average total single family permits from 2004 – 2008 was 16,896 permits. The Maryland Department Planning estimates that over 80% of future growth with be located on public sewer.

Based on the total nitrongen loads into the Chesapeake Bay, septics is 4% of the Maryland Nitrogen Pie. We understand that all sectors have to do more; we ask that it be fair, reasonable, and affordable; a ban does not fit that bill.

We can attain enhanced smart growth and improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay without any ban on septic development.

We ask that our leadership focus on improving our local economy, creating atmospheres for job growth and focusing on broad based systems and structures that will engage all Marylanders to do their part in cleaning up the Bay.

Steven P. Seawright is President of the Maryland State Builders Association.
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