First ma­jor changes to comp plan sug­gested

Robin­son, Ste­wart want preser­va­tion ar­eas, wa­ter pro­tec­tion ad­dressed

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

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.

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