First major changes to comp plan suggested
Robinson, Stewart want preservation areas, water protection addressed
For the first time, the Charles County Board of County Commissioners have the power to make changes to the county’s comprehensive plan. And now that they have the power, they are putting it to use.
During the first comprehensive plan work session of the year, the commissioners proposed several amendments and tweaks to
the plan submitted by the Charles County Planning Board. Most of the tweaks were changes reflecting hot-button issues identified by public comment.
Charles County Planning Director Steve Ball said 14 major issues were brought up in the county’s first public hearing.
Among those issues were adding additional protections for Mattawoman Creek and its stream valleys, keeping impervious surfaces low, reducing development potential for Bryans Road, including Nanjemoy and Zekiah Swamp as priority preservation areas in the county, controlling transportation, moving the Indian Head Tech Park designated area into the Watershed Conservation District along with moving 1,160 acres of land east of Middleton Road from the Watershed Conservation District proposed in the plan to allow for more development.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), who previously said he would like to move the Indian Head Tech Park area into the watershed conservation district, said he stands by his position on the tech park and would also like to see the Marbury and Nanjemoy areas changed to Tier 4 designations rather than Tier 3 to turn them into “rural conservation” areas, according to the county’s tier map.
Robinson said some of the changes he is proposing and citizens have talked about over the last few months are issues the county should have moved forward on before. This is their time to “get things right,” he said.
“I’ve watched various incarnations of this plan over the past five-plus years,” Robinson said. “Some of my changes will reflect Mr. Ball’s presentation and some of them from living this over the years.”
Robinson also proposed an amendment to the plan designating Bryans Road as a mixed use village rather than a “growth center” to even out competition and focus on redeveloping Indian Head.
Another large amendment Robinson said he’d like to see go through is removing the development district from the plan — stretching from St. Charles to the Potomac River — and replace it with an appropriately-sized priority funding area, “to make it consistent with the areas targeted for development,” Robinson said.
Commissioner Amanda Stewart (D) proposed an amendment resizing the development district to the same size as the priority funding area Robinson is proposing in the plan. During the next work session on June 14, Stewart said she wants to take a look at areas surrounding where the priority funding area would be and see what specific land uses are needed.
Stewart requested recommendations from planning staff on that area for the next work sessions to compare with her own.
“I have my own suggestions, but I would like to have that conversation at our next work session,” Stewart said.
There also needs to be a conversation about the land use in watershed conservation area after staff reviews this week’s proposed amendments, Stewart said, especially in regards to the 1,160 acres of land off of Billingsley Road and Mattawoman-Beantown Road.
Regarding the stream valleys in the county, they need to be protected better, Robinson said. The county has large water resources in the surrounding area and they need to be protected. If they are not, drinking water availability could become a real problem in the county.
“This was a concern of mine dating back to the 2006 comprehensive plan,” Robinson said. “I’m not real comfortable with the way it is currently addressed.”
Robinson said their plan for water resources needs to be consistent with state guidelines and needs to address drinking water availability moving forward.
The Maryland Geological Survey says the state will face water shortages between 2030 and 2040, and there is “nothing in here that addresses that.”
Though it has not been mentioned in public comment or in the plan, Robinson proposed an amendment banning fracking in the county. With the county sitting on top of the Taylorsville Basin, a major water source for the county, fracking could be dangerous, he said.
Licenses for fracking have already been granted on the Virginia side of the Potomac River and it does not need to happen here, he said.
“I’d like to see that as being part of the water resource element,” Robinson said.
The next work session for the comprehensive plan is next week on Tuesday, June 14. That is the final work session for the plan, Ball said. After that, the public will be able to make comments on June 21 at a public hearing with all of the amendments for the plan prepared.