Poplar Hill Pursues Development in Tred Avon Critical Area
ESLC attended the joint public meeting between the Talbot County and Town of Easton planning commissions at the Avalon Theater on Tuesday, April 4 for an update on the Poplar Hill development proposed for Easton’s southwest side next to route 322 and Oxford Road. 66 of the proposal’s 120 total acres lie within the Tred Avon River critical area. Maryland’s critical area laws are meant to minimize water pollution and conserve unique wildlife and plant habitat. Before the Poplar Hill development can proceed, it must first receive critical area growth allocation from the Talbot County Council, in addition to the normal process for approval with the Easton Planning Commission, hence the genesis for the unique joint meeting.
The developer began the meeting with a presentation on the project and the public was given an opportunity to provide comments—all of which were opposed to the project as currently presented. Some opposed the project as a whole. Others opposed only the development’s proposed sports complex comprised of three athletic fields and 200 parking spaces, all located within the critical area. (Poplar Hill development’s full design guidelines from March 2023 may be found here.)
ESLC first covered this project back in December 2022 when we stated our opposition to the location of the sports complex. ESLC remains in opposition and advocates instead for a passive grassland park with trails providing equitable connectivity. These 66 acres of critical area offer Easton a unique opportunity to protect and enhance the health of the Tred Avon River, to create much-needed wildlife habitat, and to further connect the town’s network of parks and trails.
Grasslands and meadows are a threatened habitat on the Eastern Shore as well as the rest of the United States. These habitats are vital for song sparrows, goldfinches, and other grassland bird species, many of which are experiencing severe population declines—some decreasing by almost 50% since the 1970s. Converting this critical area into a passive grassland park with trails would not only create a missing middle habitat for birds and pollinators but would also provide a key connection between Easton and the new woodland park on Oxford Road. Together with Easton Point and the expansion of the Easton trail network, the town has an opportunity to create what the city of Boston calls an emerald necklace – a continuous chain of greenspace, parks, and trails. Individual parks may provide benefits for their individual neighborhoods, but by connecting greenspace, the system can become greater than the sum of its parks—a force multiplier that would add tremendous benefit and value to the town, its residents, and its visitors.
More information on the meeting and the development can be found on Talbot County’s website here: https://talbot-md.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=4&event_id=865
This article was written by ESLC’s Director of Land Use and Policy, Owen Bailey.