Hous­ing a con­cern for plan­ning com­mis­sion mov­ing for­ward

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

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.

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