Cit­i­zens have their say on comp plan

Where and where not to de­velop main tar­gets of pub­lic dis­cus­sion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

Many peo­ple would di­vide Charles County into two sec­tors: Those en­cour­ag­ing more devel­op­ment and those hope­ful devel­op­ment will slow down. Dur­ing Tues­day’s com­pre­hen­sive plan hear­ing, both sides showed up.

But what en­sued was dis­cus­sion, sat­is­fac­tion and

bal­anced takes on is­sues in the county. County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said this was one of few pub­lic hear­ings where “pol­icy and prin­ci­ple and not pol­i­tics” shined through.

“This is go­ing to be this board’s legacy. It’s my feel­ing that if these amend­ments are added to the com­pre­hen­sive plan, it should en­sure great qual­ity of life for gen­er­a­tions who will call Charles County home,” Robin­son said. “It was re­ally about peo­ple re­act­ing to changes we made to the orig­i­nal com­pre­hen­sive plan.”

Many at the hear­ing praised the board of com­mis­sion­ers for mak­ing amend­ments that were en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and catered to the needs of Mat­ta­woman Creek.

Over­all, 71 speak­ers chimed in on some of the amend­ments pro­posed ear­lier this month by Robin­son and County Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D). Some ques­tioned whether the com­mis­sion­ers would con­sider in­clud­ing a 1,160 acre area south of Billings­ley Road in the county’s pri­or­ity fund­ing area and leave it open to devel­op­ment, move the In­dian Head Tech Park and land sur­round­ing the Mary­land Air­port into the county’s Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion District, re­quire de­vel­op­ers to keep 10 to 15 per­cent of their units in sub­di­vi­sions “mod­er­ately priced” and cre­ate an af­ford­able hous­ing com­mit­tee.

Peggy Ire­land, an In­dian Head Manor res­i­dent, said she is pleased to see the amend­ments pro­posed by the com­mis­sion­ers and hopes they even­tu­ally move on to pass them. She said fi­nally the county com­mis­sion­ers are hear­ing the voices of their con­stituents.

“We’re fi­nally be­ing heard,” Ire­land said. “We felt like no one was hear­ing us. But now you’re hear­ing us.”

Lisa Gar­lock, also an In­dian Head Manor res­i­dent, agreed with Ire­land and echoed her sen­ti­ments. Pre­serv­ing the county’s nat­u­ral re­sources should be the top pri­or­ity of the com­pre­hen­sive plan, she said.

“We love our county. We love our trees and our streams and our val­leys and our ea­gles. I know a lot of places, when they start overde­vel­op­ing, a lot of these re­sources go away,” Gar­lock said.

Bev­erly John­son, a Wal­dorf res­i­dent, said the county does have the right ideas in place with the amend­ments pro­posed for the com­pre­hen­sive plan. She is sat­is­fied, but the county can still do more to pre­serve the nat­u­ral re­sources in it and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

Part of that, John­son said, is keep­ing the pop­u­la­tion den­sity down. The com­pre­hen­sive plan has a tar­geted growth rate of 1.7 per­cent to 2.0 per­cent. That is too high, she said.

“We should be tar­get­ing peo­ple who come and play and go away and not peo­ple who come and stay,” John­son said. Tourism should be more of an em­pha­sis for eco­nomic devel­op­ment, not more build out and devel­op­ment on the streets, she said.

Robin­son said he would also like to see tourism be em­pha­sized more in the county, but that is not within the scope of the com­pre­hen­sive plan, he said. It is some­thing the county may look at go­ing for­ward, how­ever.

Roger Fink from the Scott Law group lo­cated in La Plata ar­gued the 1,160 acres south of Billings­ley Road should not be des­ig­nated as part of the county’s wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district. That des­ig­na­tion “lacks any rea­son­able ba­sis” for any land out­side of the Mat­ta­woman Creek wa­ter­shed, he said.

“I was the county at­tor­ney when this land was in­cluded in the county’s pri­or­ity fund­ing area. The pri­or­ity fund­ing area im­ple­ments Mary­land’s smart growth ini­tia­tive,” Fink said. “It was owned for growth.”

Ed Flem­ing, the pres­i­dent of Wal­ton Devel­op­ment, agreed with Fink and said the county should leave the 1,160 acres open for devel­op­ment in its pri­or­ity fund­ing area. Flem­ing said there is a proper bal­ance in find­ing ways to de­velop the county while pre­serv­ing its nat­u­ral re­sources, and he is dis­ap­pointed the county has not fig­ured out how to do it yet.

In­clud­ing this area, which is not near the Mat­ta­woman wa­ter­shed, he said, would have lit­tle ef­fect in pre­serv­ing the county’s nat­u­ral re­sources. Flem­ing said the de­ci­sion to do so would be “disin­gen­u­ous.”

“The de­ci­sion that the board of com­mis­sion­ers is poised to make is tan­ta­mount to a con­struc­tion mora­to­rium,” Flem­ing said.

Gil Bauser­man, the owner of the Mary­land Air­port in In­dian Head, brought up the is­sue of des­ig­nat­ing the In­dian Head Tech Park and land sur­round­ing the air­port as part of the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district. This would re­strict busi­ness around the air­port and stunt the area’s fu­ture growth, he said.

The air­port has “more open land than a golf course,” Bauser­man said, and there are only 15 acres of land avail­able for com­mer­cial con­struc­tion.

“It would limit the air­port for only that 15 acres and no ex­pan­sion. The FAA and the state, when they put money into an air­port, they ex­pect, once it’s fully de­vel­oped, it will ex­pand,” Bauser­man said.

Bauser­man also said turn­ing Bryans Road into a mixed use vil­lage and re­mov­ing some of the ca­pa­bil­ity for devel­op­ment will re­sult in “busi­nesses dry­ing up” in the area.

Over­all, Robin­son said, the dis­cus­sion was fruit­ful and peo­ple got their points across with­out politi­ciz­ing is­sues. The com­mis­sion­ers will have another work ses­sion and dis­cuss what they heard from the pub­lic through­out the hear­ing.

There will be more op­por­tu­nity to add, he said.

County Com­mis­sioner Bobby Rucci (D), dur­ing the county com­mis­sioner’s meet­ing, said he wanted to apol­o­gize to the county’s plan­ning com­mis­sion for all of the pro­posed changes to the doc­u­ment they put to­gether.

Robin­son said, per­son­ally, he does not have any­thing more to add to the doc­u­ment. He just wants it to re­flect the fu­ture of Charles County, he said.

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