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Environmental Concerns and Your Property

Everyone knows they should cut the grass around their home, keep the paint fresh, the roof clear, and take care of their gardens.  Not everyone is aware they should also watch out for natural and environmental issues

For example… Unnatural wetlands = major monetary loss

One property, known to this writer, lost a good portion of the back few acres of the property to unnatural (or man-made) wetlands. The “county tax” ditch behind the property had not been cleared for some years.  This delay caused water to back up, overflow the ditch banks, and encroach on the land. In that area of the property, the land became saturated and spongy. Once water is standing on a parcel of land, it may fall under environmental protection guidelines. The land-owners had mistakenly believed it was the duty of the county to keep the ditch clear.

In fact, it is the responsibility of the property owner to obtain a permit from the Army Corp of Engineers and clear the ditches along their property line. The loss of land was the fault of the owner.

Further, by not keeping the grounds cut, the owner allowed small trees to take hold.  He kept thinking he would eventually “get to it” and clear the brush “sometime in the near future.” Unfortunately, once those trees were greater than two inches in diameter, Forestry had a say in the removal of those same trees.

The trees could no longer be removed from the land unless the owner replaced them. New trees could be planted in another area on that land, or another parcel in Worcester County.

The unintentional neglect left the once extremely valuable piece of land as a target or troubled property. At one time, the owner was offered $15,000,000.  Due to the lack of attention to his land, it is now valued at $800,000.  This resulted in a $14,200,000 loss to the owner. Quite an expensive, and heartbreaking, lesson.

Had the owner known the ramifications of not keeping the grounds cut and the tax ditch cleared, he would have kept his land maintained so it would continue to be a valuable asset.

Soil contamination is a problem, too

Another property owner allowed his family and neighbors to park their old cars and dispose of trash on his vacant lot.  However, once motor oil and other regulated substances were dumped there, he ran afoul of County regulations and authorities stepped in.

The land had to be excavated, removing the topsoil that was contaminated with petroleum products to be treated and disposed of. This occurred at a great expense to the owner.

Another farm in an adjacent county allowed wastewater sludge to be sprayed on the field for soil conditioning. Unfortunately, the tanker truck owner was also cleaning industrial tanks which contaminated the spray with cleaning solvent. The solvent mixed with the sludge (that was applied to the land) caused extensive contamination to the soil on the farmland.  Even worse, it contaminated some wells supplying drinking water in the surrounding area.

To protect your property from natural and environmental issues:

Remove all old tires, etc. from your land.
Keep the grass cut and/or brush cleared.
Do not allow disposal of trash on your land.
Keep the ditches cleared.
Maintain your access roads.

It is imperative you do not assume you can turn your back on a parcel of land without expecting some pitfalls that may cause serious losses to you. By taking care of your land, you will be preserving that investment for your future.

You may want to check with the county (Environmental or Forestry), or your local REALTOR, for questions relating to your property, or for further guidance on this topic.

Joanna Laslo
Joanna Laslohttps://www.oceancitybeachproperties.com
Broker/Owner of Beach Real Estate, Inc., a local that Graduated from Stephen Decatur High School.  35+ years of experience in real estate sales.  Joanna is a broker in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.  Joanna also manages Ocean City weekly condo and vacation rentals.

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