Work on comp plan up­date to be­gin

Up­date fo­cuses on preser­va­tion, tar­geted growth ar­eas

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

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.

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