A legislative commission went before the House Appropriations Committee yesterday in favor of proposed bills restricting development around the Chesapeake Bay.
The proposals of the Critical Area Commission met sharp criticism from rural delegates, who predicted that despite their opposition the bills are likely to be law by the end of the session.
The proposals are for laws limiting development, farming, timbering and mining in areas within 1,000 feet of the bay in 16 counties and 44 municipalities.
Environmentalists have called the restrictions vital to cleaning up the polluted Chesapeake, but some delegates, especially on the Eastern Shore, complain the laws would punish rural areas for pollution caused by others.
The most controversial aspect of the proposals, which the General Assembly can accept or reject but not change, says counties must designate land within 1,000 feet of the bay and its tributaries as intensive residential development, limited development, or resource conservation areas. The legislation would regulate how much future development can take place in these areas.
Committee Chairman R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D- Eastern Shore) said he expects the General Assembly to pass the critical areas law.
But legislators unhappy with it are likely to draft separate legislation, he said, that would have the effect of changing parts of the program they do not like.
"You are penalizing the people that have done nothing, that are not contributing to pollution," Del. Samuel C. Linton (D-Eastern Shore) declared.
He complained that not enough was done to prevent urban counties from polluting the Potomac River.
Several rural legislators also complained to the task force chairman, Solomon Liss, that the new proposals, if enacted, would take away the right of local governments to make land-use decisions. "The next thing we know, we aren't even going to need county commissioners," said Del. John M. Ashley Jr. (D-Eastern Shore).