Lakeside Fatigue Syndrome it’s called, a real thing.
Understandably, a good number of people around here are just tired of the Lakeside drama. “Yes, it’s dreadful, and Rocks, the developer, got the Lakeside approval improperly,” some might say. “But let’s move on already…we obviously can’t change anything.” Interestingly, this seems evident mostly among folks who were particularly active and engaged in the “Reset Lakeside” effort last fall. The disappointment and sense of betrayal were palpable when, after a seemingly successful campaign, the Council did not adopt the Reset Resolution, or even introduce it. All that work, the yard signs, the meetings, the rally! It did no good, some think. And here we go again?
But clearly, very many other Talbot Countians remain both incensed and determined: 516 individuals (most being voters) have joined the “Fix Lakeside Petition” (here) in the past 2 weeks; the number seems to grow by the hour. Donations arrive by GoFundMe and by check every day (most $25 to $250…and one for $5000.) Yard signs are out, and emails from Petitioners are hitting Council Members desks. This “Fix Lakeside” thing is very much alive.
This letter is to explain in the simplest possible terms why and how Fix Lakeside can succeed, and why quitting due to an acute attack of LFS, especially at this moment, is the height of self-defeat.
Rocks, The Lakeside developer, has County approval today to build immediately on over 500 acres. Plans call for 2501 homes and commercial space 1/3 the size of the Annapolis Mall along Route 50 near the single stoplight marking Trappe.
“RESET LAKESIDE” meant completely rescinding all County approvals, even though about 40 houses had been built and another 80 were in the works. A rescission like that, coming 30 months after the approval had been granted and 18 months after the start of construction,–no matter how justified–is unprecedented in Maryland law. Really, no one knew exactly what would happen on enactment. That fear of the unknown, inflamed by voices from a few well-placed, high-profile advocates of Lakeside spreading anxiety and predicting litigation, was no doubt why the New Council was persuaded in January not to act, campaign talk notwithstanding.
“FIX LAKESIDE” is altogether different. It rescinds nothing, and the consequences—all good for Talbot County–are readily foreseeable. It works because of a turning point achieved in TIP’s recent lawsuit against the Maryland Department of Environment (“MDE”), described next.
TIP’s lawsuit to compel MDE to step in and fix this situation was recently dismissed on technical grounds, but not before MDE came to recognize that, as TIP has contended from the outset, the sewer map that the developer used to persuade the County to grant Lakeside approvals was the wrong map. The whole story was false.
Lakeside is the biggest, most out-of-place, polluting disruptor of Talbot County that any developer has ever engineered. The people behind any billion-dollar deal drive hard to get the permits they need, to overcome any obstacle. The Talbot County Council in 2004 had rejected Lakeside out of hand, 5-0 against. But in 2020, that fact was ignored; instead, a majority of the old Council accepted a false narrative presented by the applicant—that “Map 24” governed.
MDE has now said Map 24 is irrelevant, confusing, and should be eliminated. It is “Map 23” that governs. And on Map 23, Lakeside was always “unprogrammed,” scheduled for no sewer service at all. The County must act, not because the ad hoc Committee to Fix Lakeside or TIP is calling for it, but because MDE requires it.
Falsehoods or not, realistically there is no way that the initial 120 homes in Phase 1A of Lakeside will ever be undone, so under the “Fix Lakeside” initiative they remain in place. (That was an issue in the “Reset” effort, as the implications were very uncertain.) If you don’t like what’s there, then every time you drive by that entrance just think of it as Talbot’s punishment for our inattention to local government action when it matters.
MDE has directed Talbot County to correct mistakes in the sewer service map adopted by R281, discarding “Map 24” and relying on “Map 23” as should always have been the case. The County’s reclassification of the Lakeside property for development was in its entirety a mistake, because (as transcripts and videos of the proceedings show), the County was led into doing so by the applicants’ portrayal that “Map 24” governed. The error was recited in the very title of R281. MDE has confirmed Map 24 was wrong from the outset, and the truth was displayed on Map 23—where Lakeside unquestionably was not designate to receive sewer service at all.
A proper remapping of the Trappe area means all of Lakeside (but for those 120 homes) reverts to “unprogrammed,” just as it was the hour before R281 was adopted. The Lakeside developer can reapply to the County whenever he wants to go forward, but unprogrammed is the starting point, and a full, proper review before the Planning Commission and County Council (with public hearings) will be required for approval of each phase.
For sure, the developer and his handful of backers are counting on one thing going their way: Lakeside Fatigue. No way “the public” will stay with this. It’s really complicated. And boring. And everyone’s tired of reading all that stuff. And Poplar Hill will distract attention.
Maybe. But reaction to the “FIX LAKESIDE INITIATIVE” suggests not. Any Talbot citizen who wants to support this effort, whether new to the issues or a jaded Lakeside veteran, should go to fixlakeside.com to get engaged. Sign the Petition (takes under a minute); make a donation; spread the word.
No one on the Council has indicated opposition to the remapping described above; indeed, the County is just now working on its response to MDE. So, the message is one of support. Maybe the “Reset Resolution” was problematic, a bridge too far. But “FIX LAKESIDE” is different, a straightforward and honest response to MDE’s request that Talbot County correct the mistakes made in adopting R281. Let’s see that it’s done right.
Just put out a yard sign.
The Talbot Integrity Project