Pub­lic hear­ing set on com­pre­hen­sive plan

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIEL DIVILIO ddivilio@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CH­ESTER­TOWN — Read­ing like an epic love let­ter to the lo­cal agri­cul­ture in­dus­try, the cur­rent draft of the Kent County Com­pre­hen­sive Plan aims to pre­serve the area’s ru­ral her­itage. The Kent County Com­mis­sion­ers are hold­ing a pub­lic hear­ing on the com­pre­hen­sive plan at 6 p.m. Tues­day, March 27. It will be in the com­mis­sion­ers hear­ing room at the R. Clay­ton Mitchell Jr. Build­ing, 400 High St., Ch­ester­town. The com­pre­hen­sive plan is the county’s roadmap for de­vel­op­ment and land use. The plan is man­dated by the state and must be up­dated ev­ery 10 years. The Kent County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has been work­ing on up­dat­ing the 2006 com­pre­hen­sive plan for the last two years with county staff and con­sul­tants from EarthData Inc. The draft be­fore the Kent County Com­mis­sion­ers — com­ing in at 136 pages — is avail­able on­line at www. kent­county.com/plan­ning/ comp-plan-up­date. “Prop­erly used, the Plan pro­vides the ba­sis for de­ci­sion-mak­ing at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment and will guide the pri­vate sec­tor to­ward ac­cept­able, ben­e­fi­cial, and prof­itable ac­tiv­i­ties af­fect­ing the land and our peo­ple,” the plan states. In ad­di­tion to out­lin­ing the broad strokes of the county’s vi­sion for land use and de­vel­op­ment, the com­pre­hen­sive plan is bro­ken down into chap­ters ad­dress­ing the econ­omy, towns and vil­lages, the coun­try­side, the en­vi­ron­ment, hous­ing, trans­porta­tion, com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties and pub­lic ser­vices, his­toric and cul­tural preser­va­tion and im­ple- men­ta­tion strate­gies. The com­pre­hen­sive plan makes clear on page 1 the county’s in­tent to pre­serve the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try and re­in­forces that fo­cus through­out the doc­u­ment. “It is Kent County’s vi­sion to pre­serve its his­toric and cul­tural tra­di­tions, along with its high qual­ity of life, while em­brac­ing suf­fi­cient eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­vide for the eco­nomic well-be­ing of our cit­i­zens. This Plan rec­og­nizes that agri­cul­ture is the key­stone to Kent County’s her­itage and its fu­ture,” the plan states. “Kent County can­not af­ford to have this key ele­ment dam­aged or dis­placed. This recog­ni­tion of agri­cul­ture’s sta­tus as the high­est and best use for much of the County is an es­sen­tial tenet of this Plan.” Main­tain­ing Kent County’s “su­pe­rior qual­ity of life,” pro­vided through the nat­u­ral sur­round­ings and pre­served her­itage, also is of great im­por­tance in

the com­pre­hen­sive plan, though a par­tic­u­lar draw­back is noted. “This spe­cial place has been pur­chased at a high cost, one of lim­ited job op­por­tu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly for our young cit­i­zens,” the plan states. “Al­though our econ­omy has ex­panded from nat­u­ral re­sources and work­ing lands based in­dus­tries to a more di­ver­si­fied one that in­cludes man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tries, health care, em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties with Wash­ing­ton Col­lege, re­tail, tourism, and other ser­vice­ori­ented busi­nesses, we must seek in­no­va­tive ways to con­tinue eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion.” From the plan: “Kent County con­tin­ues to have the low­est pop­u­la­tion of any county in Mary­land, but in 2010, the Cen­sus re­ported the county’s high­est pop­u­la­tion to date. The County’s 2010 pop­u­la­tion of 20,197 rep­re­sents ap­prox­i­mately a 5% in­crease since 2000.” Ac­cord­ing to the com­pre­hen­sive plan, Kent County’s growth rate is lower than the Up­per Shore, pro­jected at 15 per­cent, and the state, 9 per­cent. The Mary­land Depart­ment of Plan­ning re­port­edly es­ti­mates the county pop­u­la­tion to grow to 21,400 peo­ple by 2020 and 23,500 peo­ple by 2040, at an an­nual rate of .5 per­cent. The pop­u­la­tion of res­i­dents over 60 years old will con­tinue to grow. While the com­pre­hen­sive plan calls for the county to con­tinue slow­ing farms from be­ing turned into res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ments, it states the county’s in­ven­tory of ex­ist­ing un­de­vel­oped lots is ex­pected to sat­isfy the next 30 years’ worth of pop­u­la­tion growth. The com­pre­hen­sive plan states de­vel­op­ment should be guided to the county’s un­in­cor­po­rated vil­lages and in­cor­po­rated mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, while ex­pand­ing the re­tail and ser­vice in­dus­tries to suit res­i­dents’ needs. “Vil­lages can serve as ap­pro­pri­ate lo­ca­tions for ad­di­tional growth pro­vided the level of pub­lic ser­vices can sus­tain the pro­posed amount of de­vel­op­ment. That is, suf­fi­cient pub­lic waste­water treat­ment ca­pac­ity and/or wa­ter sup­ply ca­pac­ity must ex­ist for vil­lages within a san­i­tary ser­vice area,” the plan states. Among the vil­lages al­ready served by pub­lic util­i­ties are Worton, Kennedyville, Tolch­ester, Edesville and Fair­lee. The com­pre­hen­sive plan calls for the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of hous­ing. The plan states that about 79 per­cent of all res­i­dences in the county are sin­gle-fam­ily de­tached houses. “Kent of­fers one of the most de­sir­able res­i­den­tial lo­ca­tions in the Mid-At­lantic Re­gion due to its nat­u­ral beauty, moder­ate cli­mate, de­sir­able com­mu­ni­ties, and prox­im­ity to ma­jor met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas. Many of the County’s cur­rent hous­ing prob­lems — es­ca­lat­ing hous­ing cost and rents, over­all de­mand for hous­ing, and po­ten­tial pres­sure of growth — re­sult from th­ese qual­i­ties,” the plan states. From the plan: “Sea­sonal and va­cant homes rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age (13.2%) of the County’s hous­ing sup­ply. In Mary­land, only Worces­ter and Gar­rett Coun­ties have a greater per­cent of sea­sonal hous­ing than Kent County.” To en­cour­age de­vel­op­ment for all in­come lev­els, the com­pre­hen­sive plan states that the county will con­sider in­cen­tives for de­vel­op­ers. In an ef­fort to bol­ster af­ford­able hous­ing op­tions, the plan states the county also will en­cour­age new and ex­panded mo­bile home parks. Em­ploy­ment con­tin­ues to be fo­cused in agri­cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, health care, man­u­fac­tur­ing and tourism. Growth is ex­pected in re­tail due to in­creased de­mand for bet­ter ac­cess to shop­ping, the plan states. “Many of our young adults af­ter com­plet­ing their ed­u­ca­tion leave the County in search of al­ter­na­tive eco­nomic, so­cial, and cul­tural op­por­tu­ni­ties. It is a County pri­or­ity to re­tain young cit­i­zens by cre­at­ing jobs that pro­vide a liv­ing wage and suit­able ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties,” the plan states. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pre­hen­sive plan, the county will as­sist the ex­pan­sion ef­forts of cur­rent em­ploy­ers, the de­vel­op­ment of small busi­nesses and home-based and cot­tage in­dus­tries, the en­hance­ment of mar­itime trades and the pro­mo­tion of tourism. The plan also calls for the county to sup­port trade ed­u­ca­tion in pub­lic schools, while work­ing with Wash­ing­ton Col­lege and Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege to bol­ster job op­por­tu­ni­ties and adult ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams. From the plan: “Kent County is one of the coun­ties with the least amount of for­est cover in Mary­land. About 24% of Kent County is forested, re­flect­ing the County’s in­ten­sive agri­cul­tural use. Ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, 64% of streams in Kent County have in­ad­e­quate forested buf­fers.” Still, farm­ing and ac­ces­sory agri­cul­ture-re­lated busi­nesses re­main the prime fo­cus in pro­mot­ing the lo­cal econ­omy. “Eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ef­forts should rec­og­nize the need to main­tain agri­cul­ture’s crit­i­cal mass which en­sures the mar­ket for needed agri­cul­tural sup­pli­ers and ser­vices. Ef­fort should be made to at­tract agri­cul­tural re­lated in­dus­tries that not only pro­vide job op­por­tu­ni­ties for County res­i­dents but also sup­port the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try and use raw ma­te­ri­als from area farms,” the plan states. Three fo­cal is­sues in the chap­ter on trans­porta­tion are mass tran­sit, a long-pro­posed Ch­ester­town by­pass and the po­ten­tial for a Ch­e­sa­peake Bay cross­ing in Kent County. The county con­tracts with Del­marva Com­mu­nity Tran­sit to pro­vide some level of pub­lic trans­porta­tion. The com­pre­hen­sive plan states that the low pop­u­la­tion den­sity in Kent County would not sup­port more ex­pen­sive tran­sit op­tions like a light rail. The com­pre­hen­sive plan also calls for the de­vel­op­ment of pedes­trian and bi­cy­cle trails — no­tably one link­ing Ch­ester­town to Worton, the lo­ca­tion of the county’s main recre­ation fa­cil­i­ties. The county con­tin­ues to back a plan to di­vert state Route 213 through traf­fic around Ch­ester­town. This would re­quire an ad­di­tional Chester River bridge to be built. Ac­cess would be re­stricted to state Route 291 and Hopewell Cor­ner, ac­cord­ing to the com­pre­hen­sive plan. “The cur­rent truck and agri­cul­tural equip­ment traf­fic over the Chester River Bridge and through Ch­ester­town causes traf­fic con­ges­tion, safety haz­ards, and ad­versely af­fects lo­cal scenic and his­toric re­sources,” the plan states. “The pro­posed Chester River Boule­vard will serve as an MD 213 al­ter­na­tive route for th­ese ve­hi­cles and also mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive im­pacts of es­ca­lat­ing road­way traf­fic.” The com­pre­hen­sive plan also pro­motes the con­struc­tion of an over­pass at U.S. Route 301 and state Route 313 be­tween Galena and Massey. While the state con­tin­ues to study op­tions for a new Ch­e­sa­peake Bay cross­ing, the com­pre­hen­sive plan re­in­forces lo­cal op­po­si­tion to such a bridge ter­mi­nat­ing in Kent County. “A north­ern bridge cross­ing will have a detri­men­tal im­pact on the County’s ru­ral land­scape and nat­u­ral re­source-based econ­omy. It will un­der­mine the County’s ef­forts to pre­serve our agri­cul­tural in­dus­try and de­velop a tourism in­dus­try based on our cul­tural, his­tor­i­cal, nat­u­ral, and scenic as­sets,” the plan states. In ad­dress­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, the plan dis­cusses at length the county’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in a re­gional ef­forts to clean up lo­cal wa­ter­ways and the Bay through the re­duc­tion of nu­tri­ent and sed­i­ment pol­lu­tion. From the plan: “There are four aquifers that sup­ply nearly all ground­wa­ter in Kent County, they are the: Aquia, Mon­mouth, Magothy (and) Rar­i­tan Pat­ap­sco. ... Based on (the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment’s) wa­ter bal­ance method­ol­ogy, Kent County’s ground­wa­ter recharges at an av­er­age rate of over 200 mil­lion gal­lons per day.” Ac­cord­ing to the com­pre­hen­sive plan about half of the county re­lies on sep­tic sys­tems for waste­water treat­ment and dis­posal, while pub­lic sewer lines are in use in all five towns and se­lect vil­lages. The Mary­land Depart­ment of Plan­ning growth es­ti­mates through 2040 show that about 50 per­cent of new res­i­dents also will rely on sep­tic sys­tems. “While such sys­tems per­form a valu­able func­tion for ru­ral res­i­dents, if not prop­erly main­tained, they can be­come a pub­lic health haz­ard and even when main­tained stan­dard sep­tic sys­tems do lit­tle to re­duce nu­tri­ent pol­lu­tion of ground­wa­ter,” the plan states, not­ing that some ar­eas have ground­wa­ter bac­te­rial con­tam­i­na­tion, among them Golts and Still Pond. The plan also cov­ers pro­tec­tions of plant and wildlife re­sources, ef­forts to in­crease the amount of non­ti­dal wet­lands, the conser- va­tion of the county’s 268 miles of mostly wooded tidal shore­line, the pro­mo­tion of re­for­esta­tion cou­pled with a “no net for­est loss strat­egy,” the main­te­nance of air qual­ity and man­age­ment of min­eral re­sources, mostly sand and gravel. In ad­di­tion to pre­serv­ing the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try and the en­vi­ron­ment, the plan spells out ways of safe­guard­ing his­toric build­ings. “Eco­nom­i­cally, his­toric preser­va­tion in­creases prop­erty val­ues, stim­u­lates her­itage tourism, and fos­ters sup­port­ive com­mer­cial ser­vices. Cul­tur­ally, preser­va­tion con­tin­ues and adds to the com­mu­nity fab­ric en­rich­ing the County’s qual­ity of life,” the plan states. From the plan: “Since its cre­ation in 1974 by the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly, more than 700 prop­er­ties and struc­tures have been doc­u­mented in Kent County through the (Mary­land In­ven­tory of His­toric Prop­er­ties). ... Th­ese list­ings on the MIHP only re­flect ap­prox­i­mately 17% of the his­toric struc­tures in the County.” The Kent County His­toric Preser­va­tion Com­mis­sion re­views plans for ren­o­va­tions at des­ig­nated struc­tures. Also join­ing preser­va­tion ef­forts as listed in the com­pre­hen­sive plan are the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety of Kent County, Preser­va­tion Mary­land and mu­nic­i­pal boards. “The County will work with lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions to de­velop ed­u­ca­tion and out­reach pro­grams to help cit­i­zens bet­ter un­der­stand the ben­e­fits and val­ues of own­ing his­toric prop­er­ties. The part­ner­ship will make own­ers of his­toric prop­er­ties aware of tax cred­its, grant and loan pro­grams for restor­ing his­toric build­ings, and pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on their proper main­te­nance and re­pair,” the plan states. The com­pre­hen­sive plan calls for the county to look into es­tab­lish­ing lo­cal in­cen­tives such as prop­erty tax abate­ment and cred­its or waiv­ing per­mit fees for prop­erty own­ers who list on

the lo­cal reg­is­ter of his­toric places. Her­itage-re­lated ser­vices also could pro­vide ad­di­tional in­come for prop­erty own­ers, ac­cord­ing to the plan. “In­ter­pret­ing the County’s his­tory through guided tours and demon­stra­tions, agri­tourism for ex­am­ple, would al­low res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence first­hand the County’s tra­di­tional life­styles and gain a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion for ru­ral life,” the plan states. The draft un­der re­view by the Kent County Com­mis­sion­ers is about 50 pages longer than the 2006 com­pre­hen­sive plan, though some of the same lan­guage was rolled into the new doc­u­ment. The draft up­date in­cludes maps and ta­bles, lo­cat­ing var­i­ous re­sources and high­light­ing as­so­ci­ated statis­tics. “When adopted, the Plan will serve as the fun­da­men­tal guide for many County poli­cies and or­di­nances that per­tain to pub­lic and pri­vate ac­tions con­cern­ing land use. Pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion is crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of this process, so res­i­dents of Kent County are strongly en­cour­aged to re­view the Plan and make their thoughts known,” states a news re­lease from con­sul­tant EarthData an­nounc­ing the March 27 pub­lic hear­ing.

FILE PHOTO

The Kent County Com­pre­hen­sive Plan main­tains the preser­va­tion of the lo­cal agri­cul­ture in­dus­try as a top pri­or­ity in land use de­ci­sions. A pub­lic hear­ing on the plan is set for Tues­day, March 27.

PHOTO BY DANIEL DIVILIO

As nat­u­ral re­sources play an im­por­tant role in the qual­ity of life of Kent County, the com­pre­hen­sive plan’s chap­ter on the en­vi­ron­ment seeks to en­sure their con­ser­va­tion.

PHOTO BY DANIEL DIVILIO

The preser­va­tion of his­toric prop­er­ties like Knock’s Folly, com­pleted in the late 1700s, is high­lighted in the com­pre­hen­sive plan as one of the at­tributes of Kent County’s high qual­ity of life.

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