Work on comp plan update to begin
Update focuses on preservation, targeted growth areas
With the budget passed and out of the way in the near future, the Charles County Board of Commissioners are moving on to their next endeavor: passing the county’s first comprehensive plan in 10 years.
The last comprehensive plan was approved in 2006
according to Charles County Planning Director Steve Ball. And over that time the county has averaged a 1.3 percent growth in population per year.
“Fundamentally, the plan is based on growth of population,” Ball said during the presentation of the plan to the commissioners at their Tuesday meeting.
The plan stretches projections out as far as 25 years to 2040, Ball said, but it is still updated every 10 years with new information. As of now, he said, the projected population will jump to 222,000 in 2040 from just 154,707 this current year.
The plan includes longterm projects such as the Charles County transportation corridor on U.S. 301, the county’s light rail project stretching from White Plains to the Branch Avenue Metro station with multiple stops in between and the proposed Civic Center along Old Washington Road in Waldorf.
Along with the plan there will be some zoning changes, Ball said. Some areas will be re-designated on the county’s “tier map.” Bryans Road is designated as a “village” and the county’s “deferred development district” is being transformed into a “watershed conservation district” which means no residential development can happen in that area.
There are 10 chapters in the plan overall, Ball said. The first two chapters set the “legal context” for the plan and go over the history of the county and the way it has been developed, Ball said. Other chapters include economic development, transportation, community development, energy conservation, water resources and natural resources.
Out of all the chapters, Ball said, chapter three, which details land use regulation and conservation policies, may be the most important “as far as growth management goes.”
In the chapter, Ball said, the county’s redevelopment district is highlighted and measured for growth while trying to protect farmlands from too much development.
The Bryans Road area is another area of heavy discussion, Ball said. The area was established in 2001 as a growth area, including the Indian Head airport and Science and Tech Park.
County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said the growth that has been seen on Bryans Road has had a “negative impact” on the Town of Indian Head, which is right next door.
“As things got built in Bryans Road, such as a CVS, such as a supermarket, those entities disappeared from Indian Head,” Robinson said.
There is also discussion about making it a “village” area, Ball said, which allows for residential and “mixed uses.”
“It was not planned as a village although there is discussion about trying to
make it one,” Ball said.
There are two residential areas with no committed plans for development in the north and south of the Bryans Road area, Ball said. The county commissioners could change land use designations in that area.
As far as community development goes, County Commissioner Amanda Stewart (D) said she is happy to see that the plan addresses it but was not satisfied with how little the plan addressed affordable housing in the area.
“That’s a big piece that’s missing because people do have a concern in the county about affordable hous-
ing,” Stewart said.
Ball said there was no specific reason plans for affordable housing were left out of the study. There was a study being conducted on housing and affordability the same time the plan was being drafted, Ball said, so it was not addressed as heavily by the planning board.
Robinson suggested information from that study be included as the county continues to discuss the plan and go through its work sessions.
“It may be that that timing was off a little bit,” Ball said. “We can go back and add those separate plans, we always try to reference them.”
Stewart also said she would like to address the county’s “priority preservation goal” differently than it is addressed in the study. The county is looking to take out conservation easements, or agreements limiting the type of use on certain pieces of land, Ball said, to keep parts of the county preserved.
Currently, Ball said, the preservation areas being looked at are in Western Charles County, the Cobb Neck area and the Zekiah Swamp area. They would like to conserve 29,612 acres in these areas over the next 60 years at 500 acres per year.
But Stewart said she would like to see those acres spread out through more of the county.
“I’m not suggesting we increase the acres, but I’d like us to have a discussion on whether it would be better for us to have a ratio of preserved acres,” Stewart said. “I’m still challenged with putting all of our preservation in one area.”
Ball said the planning staff could come up with more options and alternatives for upcoming work sessions to address the issue.
The first work session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, in the county commissioner hearing room.