Ste­wart pro­poses af­ford­able hous­ing amend­ments

Changes to comp plan con­tinue

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

Just ahead of Charles County’s Com­pre­hen­sive Plan pub­lic hear­ing, the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers are propos­ing more new amend­ments for the plan.

Last week, much of the dis­cus­sion and many of the amend­ments pro­posed by com­mis­sion­ers Ken Robin­son (D) and Amanda Ste­wart (D) were of the en­vi­ron­men­tal va­ri­ety and called for tier changes along with pri­or­ity fund­ing area ad­just­ments.

This week’s big­gest amend­ment made by Ste­wart is propos­ing the county re­quire de­vel­op­ers to have a cer­tain per­cent­age of the units they build be more af­ford­able for county res­i­dents. An­other pro­posed amend­ment from Ste­wart sug­gests the county sup­ple­ment its goal of cre­at­ing higher pay­ing jobs with a goal of cre­at­ing more jobs with a “liv­able wage.”

Specif­i­cally for hous­ing, Ste­wart said, a pro­vi­sion should be added to en­sure that “10 to 15 per­cent” of hous­ing units in a new sub­di­vi­sion of 20 or more units should be “mod­er­ately priced.”

This is re­quired even if the “devel­op­ment if phased in over time,” Ste­wart said.

“De­vel­op­ers must iden­tify all land within the county that the de­vel­oper owns or con­trols that is suit­able for devel­op­ment in or­der to en­sure that the devel­op­ment is not bro­ken up to hold 19 units or fewer,” Ste­wart said.

Ste­wart also said she would like to see a Charles County Af­ford­able Hous­ing board cre­ated to en­sure de­vel­op­ers abide by these sug­gested reg­u­la­tions.

In March, the county voted to dis­solve a pre­vi­ous hous­ing author­ity board. Ste­wart said that was be­cause the com­mis­sion­ers did not be­lieve the board ad­dressed the needs of the county. This board, she said, would make sure the pro­vi­sion rate is suf­fi­cient to Charles County and will make rec­om­men­da­tions to com­mis­sion­ers as time passes to up­date laws.

“Mod­er­ate priced hous­ing is cre­ated to as­sist those at re­tire­ment age and those on fixed in­come,” as well as early home own­ers, Ste­wart said.

Steve Ball, the county’s plan­ning di­rec­tor, pre­sented po­ten­tial changes to the com­mis­sion­ers from amend­ments pro­posed dur­ing last week’s work ses­sion, and one of those in­cluded a change in the county’s devel­op­ment dis­trict Ste­wart pro­posed.

Ste­wart re­quested the county’s devel­op­ment dis­trict be out­lined to “mir­ror” the county’s pri­or­ity fund­ing area.

Robin­son did not have any fur­ther amend­ments to add to the plan, but said he looks for­ward to the dis­cus­sion sur­round­ing them and said it would take time to process the in­for­ma­tion from the changes on the plans map.

But still, he said, “I look for­ward to see­ing ad­di­tional changes from my col­leagues.”

Both Robin­son and Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said they com­mend the county’s staff for mak­ing ad­just­ments to the plan with amend­ments within a weeks time.

“It was a lot of work in a short pe­riod of time,” Mur­phy said.

The county’s pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posed amend­ments will be next Tues­day evening in the county com­mis­sion­ers meet­ing cham­bers.

Bon­nie Bick, a mem­ber of the Smarter Growth Al­liance for Charles County, said she is en­cour­aged by the amend­ments she has seen, but is more con­cerned with putting a cap on the devel­op­ment around the county than adding more.

The Mat­ta­woman Creek’s stream val­leys are “close to the brink of per­ma­nent de­gre­da­tion,” Bick said, and need to be taken care of.

“We’re run­ning out of time,” Bick said. “Be­fore we worry about ev­ery­thing else, we need to worry about that.”

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