Environmental Planning

Harford County is rich in natural resources. The county’s streams, forests, wetlands and sensitive species habitats, along with agricultural lands and water resources, are an integral part of the landscape of the county and add to the quality of life of its residents. Conservation and protection of these resources, through various plans, programs and regulations, is the work of the Environmental Planning Section within the Department of Planning and Zoning.

Development Regulations
Streams and their buffers, floodplains, steep slopes, nontidal wetlands and their buffers, and forests are regulated through the Harford County Development Regulations. In addition, groundwater recharge areas for certain public water systems in the county are also regulated through the Development Regulations. Along tidewater areas and much of the Susquehanna shoreline, environmental regulations affecting development are enforced through the county’s Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program.

In addition to the regulations for the natural resources listed above, the Critical Area Program regulates habitats of rare, threatened and endangered species, forest interior dwelling bird habitat, colonial water-bird nesting sites, anadromous fish spawning waters, and other sensitive habitats in the Critical Area.

Environmental Planning staff provides technical assistance for land use analysis, building permit processing, subdivision review and floodplain determinations.

What You can do to Protect Our Environment
Have you ever wondered what effects your actions have on the health of our ecosystem? The following are some simple steps that you can take to reduce your impacts on our natural systems.

Reduce Your Use of Fertilizers, Pesticides & Herbicides
Overuse of fertilizer is a substantial contributor to the increasing levels of nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The 1st thing to ask yourself is, do you really need to use fertilizer? If the answer is no - stop using the chemicals. Another way to reduce the impact of fertilizer runoff is to make sure to follow the directions provided on the product. Do not apply chemicals outside when there is a possibility of rain occurring soon thereafter.

Reduce the Amount of Grass on Your Property
By eliminating unused parts of your lawn, you can reduce the amount of pollution that your lawnmower spews into the atmosphere. Also, you can reduce the amount of water and fertilizers that you use in caring for your lawn. Consider replacing the lawn with a nice groundcover or creating a low-maintenance landscape. You will save yourself time and money and also create positive benefits in habitats and pollution removal. Download a good guide on landscaping your lawn (PDF).

Plant Native Trees
Trees are very effective at reducing the amount of pollutants that are carried in stormwater. Also, native trees are more adapted to this area and therefore require less watering and fertilizers. Trees also provide habitats for wildlife, can provide shade in the summer months, and wind breaks in the winter months. By planting a nice shade tree near your house you can save money in heating and cooling bills. Review a list of native species to Maryland (PDF) for more information.
Limit Impervious Surfaces on Your Property
An impervious surface is any surface that does not absorb water or substantially reduces the infiltration of stormwater, such as a roof, sidewalk, driveway or parking area. Water running off of impervious surfaces increases in both velocity and volume, carrying with it pollutants to nearby waterways. By limiting impervious surfaces, you allow more water to infiltrate into the ground to replenish the groundwater, and create less stormwater runoff.