Environmental Planning

Balancing new development with the preservation of our natural and cultural resources is the main focus of our Environmental Planning goals. Washington County has adopted numerous policy and regulatory documents to help guide growth and development while maintaining sensitivity to our natural and cultural resources.

As in all aspects of planning, the Comprehensive Plan for the County provides a basis of guidance for Environmental Planning.  The Comprehensive Plan lists the conservation of the County’s natural resources, the preservation of it’s natural beauty and rural character, and the enhancement of its recreational amenities as goals.  In 1996, Washington County took a proactive step toward regulating and protecting our resources by adopting the Sensitive Areas Element of the Subdivision Ordinance.

There are five areas identified for protection: 100 year floodplains, streams and their buffers, threatened and endangered species habitats, steep slopes, and “special planning areas”.  Washington County’s special planning areas include the Edgemont and Smithsburg Reservoir watersheds, the Appalachian Trail Corridor, and the Upper Beaver Creek Basin and the Beaver Creek Trout Hatchery.

Another area of environmental planning is the management of our forest resources.  In 1991, Maryland passed the Forest Conservation Act.  This law was passed in an effort to reduce the loss of forest resources in the State of Maryland to new development.  Washington County adopted it’s version of a Forest Conservation Ordinance in 1993.  Washington County’s Planning Staff is responsible for management of the County Forest Conservation Ordinance activities and requirements including plan review, tracking and inspections, answering questions from the public, and, in some cases, preparing delineation and conservation plans.  A more detailed description of the program and its goals can be found by clicking on the Forest Conservation tab found on the Planning Home Page.

The newest environmental planning issue to Washington County is Air Quality.  In 2004, the US EPA released new attainment designations for the critical pollutant ozone.  Also, as part of this designation, the EPA allowed some counties to submit an Early Action Compact showing commitment to a plan to reach the 8-hour ozone standard earlier than they would otherwise be required.  This deferred non-attainment status for ozone was granted to Washington County in August 2005.  In April 2005, the US EPA also designated Washington County as a non-attainment areas for the critical pollutant Fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5).  This designation has prompted further action to be taken at the federal, state, and local levels to reduce harmful pollutants.  Daily forecasts of air quality for our area are available at www.airnow.gov.

Washington County continues as a participant in the Hagerstown-Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization (HEPMPO) to improve air quality and will meet federal air quality standards.