Lauren Bunting

Lauren Bunting

(Dec. 18, 2020) Worcester County’s Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Program, which was adopted in 1990, accommodates future growth within the Critical Area, while providing for conservation of fish, wildlife and plant habitats, and minimizing adverse water quality impacts.

Among other requirements, the law generally requires a minimum 100-foot buffer of naturally occuring or planted vegetation, measured from the mean high-water line of tidal waters, tidal wetlands and tributary streams with any new development within the Critical Area.

In order to know where the 100-foot buffer begins on a property, a wetlands delineation needs to be done. A wetland delineation is a procedure that determines the location and extent of wetlands on a property.

This is typically completed before a property can be developed, and is not usually offered by land surveyors, but instead done by environmental consultant agencies.

The Worcester County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area begins 1,000 feet beyond the head of the tide at Whiton Crossing, and includes about 10,000 acres of the county that lie within the Pocomoke River watershed.

Worcester County’s program places all lands in the Critical Area into one of three land use categories, which are:

• Intensely Developed Areas. Residential and other development predominates to the virtual exclusion of natural habitat.

• Limited Development Areas. Low or moderately dense development co-exists with natural plant and animal habitats.

• Resource Conservation Areas. Natural resource areas (habitats, wetlands, forest) and resource-oriented activities (farming, fishing) predominate.

In order to accommodate growth, 5 percent of the total Resource Conservation Area may be converted to a Limited Development Area or an Intensely Developed Area. This process is called Growth Allocation.

The official maps delineating the Worcester County Chesapeake Bay Critical Area and exhibiting the land use classifications assigned, are publicly available on the county’s website at

— Lauren Bunting is an Associate Broker with Atlantic Shores Sotheby’s International Realty in Ocean City.

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