The Critical Area Criteria establishes three land-use management areas:
        Intensely Developed Areas
An IDA is generally defined as a concentrated area of residential, commercial or industrial uses with little or no natural habitat. All proposed development must be reviewed by the County Department of Technical and Community Services to ensure compliance with habitat protection, stormwater, forest clearing and site design guidelines. New intense development proposed in the Critical Area is directed to the IDA.
        Limited Development Area
LDAs are generally defined as areas developed in low or moderate intensity uses with some areas of natural plant and animal habitats. In LDA, new development is now generally prohibited on steep slopes of more than 15 percent. Development proposals must identify and mitigate impacts due to runoff and erosion in connection with poor soils. A stormwater management plan must be provided, so that downstream stormwater flows are limited to that of a 2-year storm prior to development. Impervious surfaces are to be strictly limited based on lot size. Roads, bridges and utilities must avoid Habitat Protection areas (as delineated by the county), unless no feasible alternative exists. Major development sites must provide wildlife corridor systems, and replanting procedures must be an integral part of any development application where more than 1,000 square feet of forest are destroyed.
        Resource Conservation Area
RCAs are areas characterized by the nature-dominated environments and resource utilization activities such as forestry, agriculture, and fisheries. New residential development is permitted at densities of less than one dwelling unit per 20 acres, and must conform to regulations protecting habitats. The Critical Area criteria also include regulations concerning agricultural, surface mining, natural parks, forestry and woodlands, as applicable.
        Associated Programs
As an integral part of the Critical Area legislation, the following programs also effectively contribute to environmental protection:
  • Water-dependent facilities program;
  • Shore erosion protection program;
  • Forest and developed woodland program;
  • Agricultural program;
  • Mineral Resources program;
  • Natural park program;
  • Habitat protection program;
  • Buffer protection program
  • Threatened and endangered species program;
  • Plant and wildlife habitat protection program;
  • Anadromous (migratory) fish
  • Anadromous fish stream buffers; and
  • Watershed management program.
Land Use Classifications

Intensely Developed Areas (IDAs)
Intensely Developed Areas (IDAs) are defined as areas of twenty of more adjacent acres where residential, commercial, institutional or industrial land uses predominate. IDAs are areas of concentrated development where little natural habitat occurs. In IDAs, the Law requires that new development and redevelopment be accompanied by techniques to reduce water quality impacts associated with stormwater runoff. These techniques are often referred to as best management practices (BMPs). The Criteria specify that these techniques be capable of reducing pollutant loads generated from a developed site to a level at least 10% below the load generated at the same site prior to development. This requirement is commonly referred to as the "10% Rule". BMPs for meeting the 10% rule include filter and infiltration systems along with stormwater wetland and pond systems. In some cases IDA on-site compliance with the 10% rule proves impossible. In those cases, local jurisdictions may provide an offset program by which equivalent water quality benefits are achieved off-site but within the same watershed. In addition, the clustering of development reduces the amount of impervious surfaces and increases the area of natural vegetation thereby lessening adverse impacts to water quality and habitat areas. The Criteria also specify that development activities minimize destruction of forest and woodland vegetation and conserve Habitat Protection Areas. Urban forestry programs benefit water quality by controlling sediment, by reducing runoff and by removing nutrients and other potential pollutants. They also furnish direct habitat value by providing sources of food and areas of temporary shelter for some wildlife species.

Limited Development Areas (LDAs)
Limited Development Areas (LDAs) are areas in which development is of a low or moderate intensity. LDAs contain areas of natural plant and animal habitats but are not dominated by agriculture, wetland, forest, barren land, surface water or open space. The quality of runoff from these areas has not been substantially altered or impaired. Housing densities in LDAs are between one dwelling unit per five acres and four dwelling units per acre. Areas with IDA characteristics but with fewer than 20 acres are classified LDA. Development or redevelopment of LDAs must not change the prevailing character of land use and must improve water quality. It must also conserve existing areas of natural habitat and incorporate wildlife corridors that ensure continuity of wildlife and plant habitat. The retention and increase of forested areas is of paramount concern to the health of the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Forest cover affords the Bay a host of benefits including habitat and water temperature mediation. Forest cover also reduces and filters runoff. The Criteria stipulate that developers replace cleared forest cover in ratios ranging from 1:1 to 3:1. When it is impossible to replace forest cover at these prescribed rates, local jurisdictions collect fees-in-lieu that are used to reforest other areas in the Critical Area or other locations beneficial to the Critical Area. In areas of new development or redevelopment, where no forest coverage existed previously, 15% of the area must be planted with trees. The Criteria allow development in areas where slopes rise 15% or more above grade only if such development can be shown to control soil erosion and runoff. Impervious surfaces (those through which water will not run) contribute to runoff and so threaten the quality of the Bay's waters. Such coverage in LDA development or redevelopment is limited to between 15% and 25% according to the nature and history of the site. Developers are strongly encouraged to use permeable surfaces.

Resource Conservation Areas (RCAs)
RCAs are characterized by natural environments or by resource-utilization activities. Resource-utilization refers to such activities as agriculture, aquaculture, commercial forestry and fisheries activities, which the Criteria consider, protected land uses. The Criteria limit new development in RCAs to one dwelling unit per 20 acres because studies indicated that when large amounts of resource-utilization land have been converted to residential development, it is usually in parcels of 2-, 5- and 10-acre lots. The "1-in-20" criterion is intended to ensure that RCAs maintain a natural character, preserving favored land uses while avoiding fragmentation of areas adequate to robust wildlife and plant habitat. New commercial and industrial facilities are not allowed in RCAs and that development which is allowed in the RCAs must conform to the standards set for LDAs. The Criteria require that farmers develop plans that promote the use of BMPs to prevent the runoff of soil, nutrients and other materials that degrade water quality. The feeding and watering of livestock must be kept well away from tidal waters although low-impact grazing is permitted. Timber harvests conducted in the Critical Area must be done pursuant to a Timber Harvest Plan approved by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Such plans, prepared by professional foresters, provide for the protection of water quality, continuity of habitat and the reforestation of timbered areas.


A site plan may be required for development on an individual lot in the Critcal Area when it is necessary to determine whether such development exceeds the impervious surface limitations (15% in the RCA and LDA), or if the development may impact the 100 foot Buffer. A site plan is required when the development requires a Buffer variance or impervious surface variance.

The site plan must be drawn to scale and preferably prepared by a surveyor, landscape architect, engineer or other qualified professional. The site plan shall show the parcel in question, lot dimensions, lot area , tidal and non-tidal wetlands, the mean high water line and the 100 feet Buffer. The plat shall also clearly show both existing and proposed improvements including all structures, concrete pads, patios and driveways including stone. The site plan shall show square feet and percentage of both existing and proposed impervious surface.

This site plan will provide the Board of Zoning Appeals with sufficient information on which to make a decision on a variance; or in the case of a Buffer Exemption Area, provide the Director and Zoning Inspector sufficient information to make required Findings of Fact.

In order to accommodate growth, portions of the County's Resource Conservation Area (RCA) and Limited Development Area (LDA) may be converted to a more intense classification, i.e. RCA may be converted to LDA and LDA may be converted to Intensely Developed Area (IDA). This process, like a rezoning, is called Growth Allocation. Only specific projects, which achieve a minimum score of 250 points on the Growth Allocation Point System, will be approved and granted Growth Allocation. The point system was developed to ensure designs that maximize habitat protection, enhance water quality, and minimize environmental disturbance. New IDA should be located in existing LDA or adjacent to existing IDA. New LDA should be located adjacent to existing LDA or IDA. Projects approved for Growth Allocation must be completed within two years of final subdivision or site plan approval.
Point Categories/Point Criteria - Residential Maximum Points
I. Location and Access to Facilities 
A. Adjacency  

1. New LDA adjacent to LDA


2. New LDA adjacent to IDA


3. New IDA adjacent to IDA


4. New IDA adjacent to LDA

B. Growth Areas  

1. Within Primary Growth Area


2. Within Secondary Growth Area


3. Within Existing Village

C. Access to Facilities 

1. Access provided by service or other road if on a major collector


2. Interior road provided


3. Located in an existing sewer and/or water service area; S1 and/or W2


4. Located in a planned sewer and/or water service area; S3 and/or W3 or above

II. Development Type  

1. Cluster Development


2. Planned Unit Development


3. Large Scale Development


4. Small Scale Development in infill areas

III.Site Design for Site Factors and Resource Protection 
A. Resource Protection  

1. Retaining more than 30% in agriculture


2. Clearing less than 30% of forest, if available


3. 1 point for every one (1) foot of average Buffer width greater than 100 feet


4. Less than 40% disturbance in 100 year floodplain


5. Best management practices to improve water quality


6. Any agricultural land remaining is protected by a 300 foot Buffer and BMP's


7. No Habitat Protection Areas (HPA) on the site other than the Buffer

B. Site Factors  

1. Few or no environmental factors


2. Less than 40% of soils with development constraints


3. Provides 30% of open space for PUD and multi-family development


4. Provides 20% of open space for other single family development


5. Open Space retained in forest with at least an average 100 foot wildlife corridor

IV. Average Lot Size  

1. 3 - 5 acres


2. less than 3 but greater than or equal to 2 acres


3. less than 2 but greater than or equal to 1 acre


4. less than 1 acre

V. Bonus Points  

1. A contiguous area of at least 20 acres is retained as a permanent Resource Conservation Area and does not have to be deducted from the County's Growth Allocation


2. A contiguous area of at least 20 acres is located adjacent to and contiguous with a permanently protected Resource Conservation Area resulting in a minimum 20 acre residue and the acreage in the development does not have to be deducted from the County's Growth Allocation


3. Either bonus points 1 or 2 is achieved and a minimum 300 foot average Buffer is provided


4. Project provides public access to the shoreline


5. Project includes creation of a Natural Park



The amount of Growth Allocation initially given to the County for future growth was five per cent of the total amount of land classified as Resource Conservation Area. The actual figure was 1,503.5 acres. Of this amount, the County set aside one hundred acres for the use of each of the two municipalities for the first twenty years. If not used, this amount will be reduced by fifty per cent in 2008.

As of 1995, 1,139.45 acres were available for use the County outside of that reserved for the towns. Occasionally, Growth Allocation is rescinded when a project does not go forward and that amount is added back into the total available. The County limits the amount of Growth Allocation to be used for residential development each year and requires that subdivisions meet a Project Evaluation Point System Threshold.

The following is the list of Growth Allocations awarded since 1995, leaving 1,073.62 acres:

Tusculum (Keith Coffin) rescinded
Hawks Landing (Rudy Beitzel) 9.62 acres
Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary 2.66 acres
Covington Cove (Wallace Boston) 6.78 acres
Scott Tawes 6.78 acres
Oehl rescinded
Last Chance Marina (Butt) 5.8 acres
Eugene & Rose Evans, Boat Building 1.92 acres
H & M Design, Distribution Center 51.11 acres
Villages of Kings Creek (Hall) 18.8 acres
Eby/Shaner 13.93 acres

Applications have been made for the following projects:

Lowell J. Stolzfus      45.79 acres
Princess Anne Lions Club                  2.981 acres
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