Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 a/k/a The Septic Bill

February 1, 2012

There is a new septic bill in town and it is known as Senate Bill 236 (SB 236) titled "Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012."

SB 236, among other things, seeks to impose strict controls on the future proliferation of septic systems. The Bill relies heavily on the (future) designation/mapping of all areas within each jurisdiction as envisioned/planned for growth. The Bill utilizes the terms Tier I, Tier II, Tier III and Tier IV for growth - with Tier I associated with areas planned for immediate growth, ties to priority funding areas (as defined by State law) and slated for sewer service; and Tier IV areas not planned for sewer service but planned for land preservation, agricultural preservation, or resource conservation and designed for little or no growth or development.

The use of septic versus public sewer for new subdivisions will depend in part in which, if any, Tier a given property is located and whether the subdivision is considered a "minor" or "major" subdivision. Whether a subdivision is major or minor depends on how those terms are defined in local law in effect on or before January 1, 2012. It will be up to each jurisdiction, if it so chooses, to place properties in its designated Tier by way of comprehensive plan amendments and zoning ordinances.

Although implementation of the Tiered system is voluntary, on or after December 31, 2012, major residential subdivisions will not be approved for septic unless and until the local jurisdiction amends the local comprehensive plan to include the Tier I - IV areas. Unless and until the Tier system is adopted, only minor subdivisions may be approved for septic while major subdivisions must be served by public sewer.

The Bill SB 236 is 33 pages long and also includes provisions addressing:

  • MDE authorization to adopt regulations to establish nutrient offsets for new development.
  • MDE requirement to adopt regulations requiring major subdivisions to receive a permit.
  • Developments that have applied for subdivision approval on or before July 1, 2012 and for which the plat is recorded by December 31, 2013 or the application is made on or after July 1, 2012 and the plat is recorded on or before December 31, 2012, are grandfathered.

Bottom Line
SB 236 was introduced on January 20, 2012, and assigned to the Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. It has an effective date of July 1, 2012. A hearing has been tentatively scheduled for February 14, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. This Bill is likely to be as controversial as its 2011 predecessor. SB 236 is expected to receive more opposition from the rural than the non-rural counties.