EASTON — Talbot County wants a new “repurposing facility” to help the Roads Department better maintain county roads. The county says it will not develop commercial or residential land where the facility is to be located on St. Michaels Road.
But the Roads Department would need approved water and sewer for the facility and an accompanying small office building, which would be constructed at 28128 St. Michaels Road. The county owns a 104-acre parcel of land there.
That’s left some residents questioning if there is another motive behind the water and sewer approval since the facility is being proposed on such a large parcel of land. Some have suggested future commercial or residential units could pop up on the county-owned land.
“Talbot County Council quietly laying the groundwork for sewer hookups and major development along St Michaels Rd. in violation of the Talbot (County) Comprehensive Plan,” one user wrote on Facebook.
Clay Stamp, the county manager, said the water and sewer approval is solely for the repurposing facility, which will reprocess materials and is “an opportunity for us to be good stewards of county resources.”
“There are no plans to expand the site at this point beyond using it to process materials and then stockpile them in an organized fashion for use by the county or for sale to contractors,” he said. “There are no plans to do anything with that property other than to support the Roads Department.”
A public hearing on Resolution 299, authorizing water and sewer for the property, will be held on Tuesday, May 25 at 6:30 p.m. The planning commission and public works board will both discuss the resolution on May 5.
Stamp said the facility is needed. In 2005, the Maryland State Highway Administration cut back on local highway funding, creating a $2 million shortfall that was only partially restored last year. The repurposing facility allows the Roads Department to repurpose materials to cut costs for road maintenance.
“The Roads Department can use equipment at the site to process materials such as downed trees, brush, and materials from property demolition, which was previously taken to the landfill,” he wrote in an email. “We then can use the repurposed materials to repair, upgrade, or construct roads throughout the county, as well as to sell excess materials to contractors with proceeds supporting the Roads Department’s efforts to maintain roadways.”
The facility and a small office building would take up five acres of land, according to County Engineer Ray Clarke. In the county resolution, the facility is proposed as 1.6 dwelling units, equaling 125 gallons of wastewater flow per day. It would cost the county $19,200 for a connection fee.
The sewer would likely be diverted to the St. Michaels wastewater plant, owned by the county. If it is connected there, Clarke said it would only be for that small parcel of land.
“Again,” he said, “solely for the repurposing facility.”
Additional sewer services on the property would have to be approved separately and the resolution would have to be amended again to allow for future development, such as commercial or residential buildings.
“No sewer service shall be available to any area beyond the existing property to be served,” according to the resolution. “No other properties, lots, or parcels, including any future reconfiguration or recombination of the property, shall be entitled to service or capacity.”
Clarke said they are considering hooking up to the Easton plant since the property is adjacent to the town. The board of public works and planning commission will discuss the proposal on May 5.
Lynn Thomas, the town planner, explained it would take time to hook up the facility to Easton’s wastewater plant because it would require annexation, but “the ball is in their court” if the county decides to do that.
Thomas said water and sewer would be approved for the entire parcel of land if hooked up to Easton’s plant.
“If you extend sewer into the town, presumably, and this is all hypothetical, that parcel would be entitled to the same consideration as a parcel owned by somebody in the private sector,” he said. “They could subdivide and create an industrial park — a whole host of possibilities.”
The county purchased the property in 1986. About 30 acres of the property was used for pumping dredge material from the Tred Avon, but over time the operation there fell into disrepair after little use.
The Roads Department has since cleaned it up and the county agency first asked for the repurposing facility about a year ago. County officials have been discussing the proposal since.
Stamp said he’s expecting only five acres of use, but the entire 30-acre parcel that the dredging operation had worked on could be used over time.
“However, it is anticipated that the operations will remain well within the 30-acres used as the dredged material placement site,” he said.