Housing a concern for planning commission moving forward
Charles County has grown over the last decade and that growth is reflected in the county’s comprehensive plan.
But there are hundreds of approvals made by the Charles County Planning Commission each year, and the annual planning report provides a review for the commission on what has been done and gives them an opportunity to comment on what needs to be done in the next year.
Beth Groth, a planner in the county’s planning and growth management division, presented the report to the commission on Monday night.
“In 2015, the annual population growth was at a rate of .93 percent,” Groth said, with an estimated population of 156,188 people as of July 2015.
The report states the county’s growth goal each year is set between 1.7 percent and 2 percent. However, despite missing its population growth goal according to the comprehensive plan, the county has still grown in terms of preliminary plans for development approved.
There were six preliminary plans approved in 2015 with 529 approved preliminary plan lots included and 891 residential building permit units, Groth said.
The report said the county missed it’s goals on population growth and single family residential development.
According to the 2006 comprehensive plan, the county’s goal is to have 70 percent single family detached housing units, 20 percent townhouse units and 10 percent of apartment units make up the county’s total residential space. But instead, the county has just 48 percent single family detached units, which drastically misses the goal set by the previous comprehensive plan in 2015.
Planning Commission Vice President Joan Jones had questions about capacity and whether the numbers were based on capacity and what was needed in the county as opposed to just approved development.
“The question is if this pattern is based on capacity,” Jones said.
Groth said the rates for residential homes were mostly “market driven” and what has been the need for people living in the county to date.
Overall, Groth said, from 2006 to 2015, the rates have been more steady with 58 percent of approvals for residential units being single family homes with townhomes and apartment units claiming 20 percent and 22 percent of approvals respectively.
But while the comprehensive plan’s goals are there to serve as a benchmark, they are not necessarily set in stone.
“The goals of the comp plan, you don’t have to meet them necessarily. It’s sort of a target,” Groth said. “That’s just generally what the comp plan called for when it was written.”
But Jones said the commission has talked about the need for more workforce and “affordable” housing. And the homeless population in the county has been a concern as well, she said, especially homeless families with children.
“We have homeless families with children. I don’t know what this has to say about our need to look at housing within the county in terms of people with all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Jones said. “This may have nothing to do with the percentages, but that does disturb me.”
Steve Ball, the director of planning for the county, said those are important questions to look into, but are “beyond the scope of this analysis.”
“We have included information in the comprehensive plan to provide more analysis on affordable housing,” Ball said. “The work is funding so I’ll be starting on that effort as soon as the plan is adopted.”
The goal is to bring in a “panel of experts,” to the county to discuss ways the county can create more affordable housing, Ball said. There is also more information in the comprehensive plan about homeless shelters for the county, he said.
Jones said the county should also look into “transitional housing” as well as homeless shelters, to get the homeless back on their feet.
“All of that is on the table,” Ball said.