A pergola frames views of the bay in a critical-area project in Tolchester, Maryland, by South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture.

The Perfect Setting

Expert advice on designing a landscape by the bay

WHAT SHOULD HOMEOWNERS KNOW ABOUT DESIGNING A PROJECT IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY CRITICAL AREA?
Building responsibly in the critical area can be a challenging but rewarding process for homeowners willing to hire a professional, exercise patience and work with their permitting office.

There is often confusion about the critical area and the buffer. In Maryland, a 1,000-foot-wide swath of land must border all tidal waters; this is the critical area. The first 100 feet of it is called the buffer. In certain zoning districts (not all), it is prohibited to build anything in the buffer.

One important regulation is the limit on lot coverage, which includes buildings, paving (even pervious), swimming pools and gravel driveways, to list a few. A wooden deck is not considered lot coverage. Limits to lot coverage can be as low as 15 percent of your property area and as high as 50 percent. Consult your local planning or permitting office to find out the specifics of your property. —D. Miles Bernard, ASLA, RLA, South Fork Studio Landscape Architecture, Inc., Chestertown, Maryland

Landscape Contracting: Anthony’s Flowers and Landscaping, Chestertown, Maryland. Pool Installation: Coastal Pool Builders, Queenstown, Maryland.