Plan­ning Com­mis­sion passes com­pre­hen­sive plan to county board of com­mis­sion­ers

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SYKESINDYNEWS

The county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan has not been up­dated since 2006, but af­ter a unan­i­mous mo­tion from the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, that will change this year.

Dur­ing Mon­day’s meet­ing, the plan­ning com­mis­sion voted 7-0 to move the com­pre­hen­sive plan out of their hands and into the hands of the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers. Plan­ning Com­mis­sion Chair­man Buddy Bowl­ing said the com­mu­nity played a part in cre­at­ing the plan.

“I thank every­one for their par­tic­i­pa­tion and their com­ments. I also thank the gen­eral pub­lic for bring­ing things to our at­ten­tion that needed to be brought to our at­ten­tion,” Bowl­ing said.

Now that the plan has been moved for­ward by the plan­ning com­mis­sion­ers, the county com­mis­sion­ers will have a chance to look at it and make what­ever changes they deem nec­es­sary to move the plan for­ward and pass it.

Pre­vi­ously, ac­cord­ing to County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D), the board of com­mis­sion­ers did not have the power to make any changes to the doc­u­ment. Be­cause they could not make any changes to the last doc­u­ment and had to remand it back to the plan­ning com­mis­sion, the plan was never passed in 2012 like it should have been.

But dur­ing last year’s Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion in An­napo­lis, the state passed legislation per­mit­ting com­mis­sion boards around the state to make changes to com­pre­hen­sive plans.

Af­ter the board makes its changes, Robin­son said, staff will have to re­view the doc­u­ment. The process could take up to six months, he said, but the process has changed for the bet­ter. Af­ter staff re­views the plan, there will be com­pre­hen­sive zon­ing changes to re­flect the fi­nal prod­uct.

“In the past, the com­mis­sion­ers could only ac­cept or re­ject what was sent to us by the plan­ning com­mis­sion.” Robin­son said. “This time around there’s a big dif­fer­ence.”

Robin­son said he has not seen the plan as of yet, but there could be “sig­nif­i­cant changes” made on it once the com­mis­sion­ers take a deep dive into it.

In­cluded in the cur­rent plan are changes to the county’s land map, such as des­ig­nat­ing a new re­de­vel­op­ment dis­trict over the Wal­dorf Ur­ban Re­de­vel­op­ment Cor­ri­dor, the cre­ation of a new tran­sit cor­ri­dor fo­cus­ing on devel­op­ment den­sity around the U.S. 301 cor­ri­dor from Wal­dorf to White Plains to make the county suit­able for its pro­posed light rail project.

There was also the in­clu­sion of the water­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict in­cor­po­rat­ing what the plan calls “most of” the Mat­ta­woman stream val­ley, plus 1,160ex- tra acres ex­tend­ing into Port To­bacco’s water­shed area.

Jim Long, the pres­i­dent of the Mat­ta­woman Water­shed So­ci­ety, said he would like to see a plan keep­ing con­ser­va­tion in mind and de­vel­op­ing “where it makes sense.”

Robin­son, sim­i­larly, said con­serv­ing dif­fer­ent ar­eas in the county will be a pri­or­ity once he digs in to the plan. Robin­son said re­de­vel­op­ing ar­eas should take prece­dence over any new pro­posed de­vel­op­ments and con­serv­ing as much nat­u­ral land as pos­si­ble has to be im­por­tant to the county.

“You only get one chance to pre­serve,” Robin­son said.

Long said the Mat­ta­woman Water­shed So­ci­ety will con­tinue to make rec­om­men­da­tions on where and how to con­serve ar­eas where they can.

The zon­ing in the Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict is a start, but there is still work to be done, Long said. He is happy there will be no de­ferred devel­op­ment around the Mat­ta­woman Creek area, but there is still more land to cover and more work to be done.

The water­shed so­ci­ety will con­tinue to rec­om­mend 10 per­cent im­per­vi­ous sur­face caps and dif­fer­ent ways to pro­tect the species within the stream val­ley.

The plan also fea­tures a new plan for eco­nomic devel­op­ment to ex­pand the county’s em­ploy­ment base and ad­dress com­mer­cial land needs. Ac­cord­ing to the plan, there will be a de­mand for 2,773 acres for em­ploy­ment devel­op­ment through 2040 and that there are 6,807 acres of un­de­vel­oped land in Charles County des­ig­nated for com­mer­cial em­ploy­ment uses.

The board of com­mis­sion­ers have re­mained hands-off with the com­pre­hen­sive plan up un­til this point. County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent De­bra Davis (D) said she is not look­ing at any spe­cific ar­eas, but wants a thor­ough and thought­ful plan for the county’s fu­ture.

“A good com­pre­hen­sive plan would be a com­pre­hen­sive plan that deals with the county’s needs, not only for now but into the fu­ture for in­fra­struc­ture and growth,” Davis said.

She said transportation is go­ing to be an es­sen­tial part of the plan and it is some­thing the com­mis­sion­ers will have a chance to prop­erly ad­dress when look­ing at it for the first time.

County Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D) shared Davis’ sen­ti­ment and said she wants a plan that works for the fu­ture of Charles County and not just now.

The plan also has to keep in mind the bal­ance of pre­serv­ing the area’s nat­u­ral re­sources while ac­knowl­edg­ing where the county is headed with devel­op­ment in the fu­ture.

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