Easton Critical Area Program


Chesapeake Bay Critical Area

In 1984, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Law in response to a decline in the overall quality of the Chesapeake Bay. The Maryland Critical Area consists of any land within 1000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay's tidally influenced water bodies. This 1000 foot ribbon functions as an "overlay zone" that imposes additional requirements on any development in the underlying zone. Easton's critical are consists of three classifications:

Intensely Developed Area (IDA) 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 main focus of the Critical Area Program is on improving water quality." (Maryland DNR)

Limited Development Area (LDA) are defined as "areas characterized by low or moderate intensity development, but that also contain areas of natural plant and animal habitats. Generally, the quality of runoff from these areas has not been substantially altered or impaired. In order for an area to be classified as LDA at the time it was mapped, it had to have housing density between one dwelling unit per five acres and four dwelling units per acre; have public water or public sewer or both; or have IDA characteristics but consist of fewer than 20 acres." (Maryland DNR)

Resource Conservation Area (RCA) are defined as "are characterized by natural environments or areas where resource-utilization activities are taking place. Resource-utilization activities include agriculture, forestry, fisheries activities, and aquaculture, which are considered “protective” land uses. In order for an area to be classified as RCA at the time it was mapped, the area would have been developed at a residential density less than one dwelling unit per five acres or be dominated by agricultural uses, wetlands, forests, barren land, surface water, or open space." (Maryland DNR)

The Critical Area Buffer (Buffer) is the area of at least 100 feet from the landward edge of all tidal waters, tidal wetlands, and tributary streams. This buffer must remain natural and functions to provide critical wildlife habitat, stabilize soils, and filter pollutants from runoff. Any new development activity on a parcel containing the buffer may require the buffer to be planted. New subdivisions and many major activities on a parcel that contains the buffer will require the buffer to be fully planted and protected.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I live in the Critical Area? Please check the Interactive Zoning Map or the Critical Area Map
  • I live in the Critical Area and want to remove a tree. What is the process? You will need to fill out a tree removal permit from the Town of Easton. (If your property includes the Buffer, a buffer management plan will also be required. Please note, that any trees removed in the critical area will require re-planting with a native species.
  • Can I cut down trees and vegetation on my lot that are less than 4 inches in diameter? NO! All vegetation in the buffer is subject to the Critical Area Law and any clearing will require a buffer management plan and vegetation removal permit. Violations will be subject to fines and/or re-planting requirements.
  • How do I prepare a buffer management plan? A buffer management plan may be prepared by a homeowner for small scale projects (See DNR's Book of the Buffer.) For large scale projects you may need to hire a professional.
  • I want to build in the Critical Area. What are the requirements? See article 4 of the zoning ordinance for information on development regulations and remediation. Regulations vary depending on your property's critical area designation. For any development on a parcel that contains the buffer, establishment will be required.
  • What is growth allocation? Growth allocation is the process of having a property's critical area designation changed (eg; RCA to LDA). Easton's allowance for growth allocation has run out requiring any new growth allocation to come from Talbot County. For more information on growth allocation see Article 4 28-401.8 of the Town's zoning ordinance.