Trappe Town Commissioner Brian Schmidt wrote a lengthy Guest Commentary published last Friday in the Star Democrat; purportedly, it was to “clear the air” on Lakeside. It did not. Instead, the same false narrative Talbot citizens have heard for two-and-a-half years is repeated yet again. Repetition of a false story over and over can bear fruit. And maybe we get tired, or worn down. But not yet.
The central point Mr. Schmidt makes—and this part is true—is that in 2003, 70% of those who voted in the Trappe referendum (but not, as he said, 70% of all residents) did approve annexation of 925 acres along Route 50 into the Town of Trappe. (Had 77 votes gone the other way, Lakeside would have been defeated…but substantial inducements offered at the time–e.g., $250,000 to the volunteer firemen, funding a police officer–assured passage.)
Mr. Schmidt went on to say that the Talbot County Planning Commission and County Council “RECOGNIZED THE DEVELOPMENT” (emphasis added) in October of 2002. He was alluding to the County’s adoption of an amendment to the Comprehensive Water and Sewer Plan that did flag a wastewater plant on the east side of Rt. 50 for future growth. Note he did not say “approved” the development, just “recognized,” a most ambiguous term.
Here are the facts: in October of 2002 the “Lakeside Subdivision” we have come to know–2501 homes and commercial space a third the size of the Annapolis Mall–was not even proposed, much less was that Project approved or “recognized” by the County. Annexation (which included more land than just Lakeside) did not come up until 2003, and even then, the Star Democrat quoted Town Attorney David R. Thompson as saying “no development proposals have been presented to the Town yet….we are not interested in entertaining development proposals yet.”
Yes, some growth over time was anticipated around Trappe, as it had been for years—but authorization to quintuple the town and to add a huge commercial component in one fell swoop? No.
Mr. Schmidt essentially repeats the same tale told again and again by the developer and his team—Lakeside was APPROVED BY THE COUNTY years ago, it’s old hat. People objecting now are just NIMBY obstructionists (though I for one live 15 miles from Trappe); just “bickering” troublemakers, trying (in Mr. Schmidt’s words) to “manipulate the narrative.”
In 2020, when R281 was approved, the Planning Commission, the County Council, and the public were falsely led to believe Lakeside was “good to go” fifteen years back. What few knew is that Lakeside had come before the Talbot County Council only one time previously—on December 21, 2004. And the Council flat-out REJECTED LAKESIDE by unanimous vote 5-0 against. The Council even prepared an extraordinary 21-page “Findings of Fact” to document the reasons for its adamant opposition.
(Virtually no one knew, either, that in 2010 MDE had initiated—and then conveniently aborted–an internal investigation into how its staff had improperly issued sewerage permits for Lakeside in the face of the County’s rejection, a legal prerequisite.)
Talbot County and its citizens had a role to play in evaluating Lakeside in 2004, and they have a voice today—exercised most directly by our non-political Planning Commission. The Lakeside decision is not, as you might be led to believe, all up to the Town of Trappe.
(And it’s a good thing, too—because the developer is not paying for the schools that will be needed; for the upgrades to County roads to alleviate new congestion; for increases in EMT and public safety, and more. No, the developer of this billion-dollar project will be long gone when those chickens come home to roost. Note that the citizens of the Town of Trappe will not be the ones paying either—it’s everyone in the County. And everyone in the County will suffer also the irrevocable erosion of Talbot’s rural character.)
The Talbot Integrity Project contends, with a boatload of evidence, that the County’s approval of Lakeside in 2020 was based on false pretenses. Applicants succeeded in persuading virtually everyone that the only issue was wastewater—as if all those other issues had been reviewed and approved long ago. Which is why the only issue we all are focused on now, including the Planning Commission and County Council during the 2020 approval process, is Lakeside’s sewerage.
And the reason The Talbot Integrity Project (“TIP”) is suing the Maryland Department of Environment to rescind MDE’s approval of Resolution 281 (the green light Councilmen Callahan, Pack and Divilio gave Lakeside) is that even here, Lakeside fails the test.
“The test” is whether or not adding waste from Lakeside into the Trappe sewerage plant for discharge into the highly impaired La Trappe Creek is consistent with the Talbot County Comprehensive Plan. TIP is not using “lazy language” claiming Trappe is operating a “failing system.” MDE’s permit is so lax—it places no limitation on total nitrogen whatever—that it’s hard for Trappe’s plant to be in violation.
Sadly, Mr. Schmidt was correct again when he wrote with evident pride that Trappe’s sewerage plant “has been operating at the peak of its ability” for years (occasional violations notwithstanding). Even when the plant is not in violation, it discharges nitrogen at 38 milligrams per liter of effluent (per independent lab reports) into a small, ill-flushing, impaired tributary—THIRTEEN TIMES CURRENT STANDARDS. Maybe you’ve seen the photos.
Learning in 2021 the “true facts” not known earlier, the Planning Commission rightly determined that putting Lakeside sewage into that plant and its effluent into La Trappe Creek is simply NOT consistent with our Comp Plan. And under Maryland law, our Planning Commission makes that call—NOT the County Council and not MDE, both of whom have chosen to pretend the Planning Commission did not speak.
Incidentally, responding to Mr. Schmidt reflects no personal quarrel with him at all. But in recent months, for some reason, he seems to have taken on the role of spokesman for the Lakeside Project. We never hear from the developer, Rocks Engineering, nor recently from other surrogates who for years advocated for this mother-of-all-subdivisions on Rocks’ behalf.
My take: new writer, same old story.
Talbot Integrity Project