• 2016 Oxford Stormwater Master Plan Made Public On Town Website

    March 5, 2024
    1 Comment

    So much has happened in the last eight years. We have had two presidential elections, a pandemic, a gubernatorial election, and the Baltimore Orioles have become contenders.

    Another thing happened in those years. The 2016 Oxford Stormwater Management and Shoreline Protection Master Plan was created. But somehow it was not available to the public on the Oxford Town website until recently.

    Last week, it miraculously appeared on the Oxford Town website after resident Scott Rensberger's countless attempts to get a hard copy. He confronted the Town Commissioners and Manager about his frustration at a town meeting on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.

    Here is the link to the plan:

    Feasibility Study Outline (oxfordmd.net) (a downloaded copy is at the end of this article)

    The study is 71 pages long and contains descriptions of different problem areas throughout the town and proposed solutions, a timeline, and a cost breakdown for each project. The copy published on the website was labeled, "draft," meaning there might be a final copy somewhere. It's also possible that the Commissioners never signed on to the plan thus keeping it in limbo.

    After a cursory review of the document, there doesn't appear to be anything so complicated that it could not have been put on the Town website immediately when it was completed in 2016 and then left there alongside other plans from the past decade:

    The list above shows all the plans including the recently added 2016 study.

    At the very least, it should have been readily available to anyone who asked. Perhaps, as has been the answer about unavailable town policy documents in the last year, this was an "oversight. Maybe it was not posted because it was merely a draft. However, if that was the reason, why didn't the Commissioners and Town Manager just say that when citizens asked for a copy or asked why there was no copy posted?

    Usually, when government doesn't make certain information public, it is because they don't want people to know about it. Maybe it exposes a mistake or something town management or government is hiding.

    In the 2016 Oxford Stormwater Management and Shoreline Protection Master Plan, the following areas of Oxford are the first four in the proposed mitigation plan/ schedule. For each area, the developers of the plan, George, Miles and Buhr LLC, Architects and Engineers, listed when each problem area should be addressed: Causeway Park, (Years 1-4) Historic Banks Street, Historic Tilghman Street, Historic Mill Street (Years 4-6) and Jack's Point. (Years 6-8). These priorities are listed in the chart on pages 65-66 in Table 13-1. Remember, the plan was developed in 2016.

    Other areas, Morris/Caroline Street, the Historic District, the Strand (parking lot) are listed as "future." The other two phases of the Strand are listed as "unassigned."

    In a statement during the February 27, 2024 town meeting the Town Manager was talking about how to use $600,000 of ARPA funds that must be used by the town or lost. She mentioned "re-doing" the 2016 Oxford Stormwater Management and Shoreline Protection Master Plan study which identified town flooding needs and what can be done. She then remarked that town needs as stated in the 2013, 2015 (she might have been referring to the 2016 plan since we cannot find a 2015 plan) studies have been "climate influenced" and have changed.

    Lewis stated that the areas that were looked at in those earlier studies had flooding problems then but aren't having the same problems now. This is interesting since it seems that the same sections of town mentioned as priorities in the plan, the Causeway, Tilghman Street, Banks Street, Mill Street, and Jacks Point are the ones listed as critical areas for flooding then and are still flooding in 2024. Eight years ago, it appears that the creators of the study recommended that these areas be addressed first.

    One area that is NOT mentioned as an immediate need in the 2016 Oxford Stormwater Management and Shoreline Protection Master Plan is specifically the focus on the preservation of the Strand Beach, a controversial project being completed now. Protection of the Strand Beach is a recommendation as a side note for preventing flooding at the Strand parking lot, but it is not the priority. Even the Strand Parking lot is listed below other area needs. Somehow this high visibility grant-funded project of restoring the Strand Beach did a leapfrog over more critical areas of town. Does the Strand project get the town and its administration publicity about preventing erosion with "living shorelines" and green solutions? Does it curry favor with the Md. Department of Natural Resources and the National Wildlife Foundation while leaving a huge portion of the town underwater? Was this project the only one the town could get grants for?

    These are questions only the town can answer. However, when people ask, the town doesn't want to answer and chastises those who ask or town staff launches into a long, rambling, defensive explanation meant to obfuscate and delay.

    Perhaps the town didn't want anyone to realize that the main focus of the Strand Project had nothing to do with real flooding problems in the town and actually was in opposition to the 2016 Oxford Stormwater Management and Shoreline Protection Master Plan. Maybe that is why the 2016 Oxford Stormwater Management and Shoreline Protection Master Plan was hidden away for so long. The old saying is "out of sight, out of mind." Again, it's a simple question with a simple, direct answer.

    Refusing to give answers is inexcusable, particularly when you have people in Oxford who are suffering with their homes being damaged and destroyed by flood waters every year. People have a right to know what these studies have revealed and WHY the town went in another direction. The assumption is that these people will be angry about the answers, and they probably will be. But isn't it better to take that chance and tell the truth?

    In isolation, the actions of the town regarding the 2016 Oxford Stormwater Management and Shoreline Protection Master Plan may not seem like a very big deal. However, this is a lack of transparency the town has practiced continuously over the last year. It is a troubling pattern of non-transparency every citizen should be concerned about, whether they support the town management and officials or not. Maybe people don't care or want people to stop asking because it doesn't affect their lives.

    People should remember, if they can shut citizens out on this issue, they can do the same on an issue that might affect the lives of others, including them.

    Additional Notes: This is not the first time that town documents have disappeared and reappeared in Oxford.

    Oxford Residents Demand Input And Expertise In Managing Town Finances - Easton Gazette (Claims of missing financial policies document)

    Missing Document Suddenly Found In Oxford : Updated 9/29/23 - Easton Gazette

    This is also not the first time that the town has ignored the advice of experts:

    Town Of Oxford Ignores Seven Years Of Financial Auditor's Concerns - Easton Gazette

    If anyone who is in the Oxford Town Office or on the Commissioners wishes to explain to us what happened with this plan, you know where to reach us.



    Jan Greenhawk

    Jan Greenhawk is a former teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. She has two grown children and lives with her husband in Maryland. She also spent over twenty-five years coaching/judging gymnastics and coaching women’s softball.
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    Jane McCarthy

    Thank you for this article...This is not necessarily information that I would ask about at a meeting, probably because you assume the Town and the Commissioners are addressing Stormwater management. We have certainly been told that they are...and yet, all of a sudden, the Strand has islands because "that grant was available" There have been many long answers about flood gates and "let me explain weather to everyone here",yet avoiding a plan that should be addressed. Where is the $600,000 going?

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