Com­mis­sion­ers ap­prove fi­nal comp plan

Davis, Rucci cast dis­sent­ing votes, sup­port­ers hail bal­ance be­tween de­vel­op­ment and en­vi­ron­ment

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

For the first time in 10 years, Charles County fi­nally has an ap­proved com­pre­hen­sive plan.

Dur­ing their reg­u­lar Tues­day meet­ing, the com­mis­sion­ers voted 3-2 with County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent De­bra Davis (D) and County Com­mis­sioner Bobby Rucci (D) be­ing the votes of dis­sent.

Af­ter much de­bate and 26 pro­posed amend­ments made to the com­pre­hen­sive plan orig­i­nally sub­mit­ted

ear­lier this year by the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, the com­mis­sion­ers fi­nally set­tled on a plan they hope can strike a good bal­ance of fu­ture de­vel­op­ment for the county while pre­serv­ing many of its nat­u­ral re­sources and char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Both Davis and Rucci pre­vi­ously said they feel the plan will re­strict the county’s de­vel­op­ment for years to come. Davis even pointed to some of the poli­cies lin­ing off cer­tain ar­eas of the county, such as the Bryans Road and Mar­shall Hall ar­eas, from any type of de­vel­op­ment al­to­gether.

Davis also ob­jected to the com­mis­sion­ers’ abil­ity to get in­volved with the plan, which was put into law by the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly. Hav­ing com­mis­sion­ers in­volved with the plan “politi­cizes” things, she said.

“Up to this year, the plan­ning process was sup­posed to be in­de­pen­dent and not po­lit­i­cal. They were sup­posed to han­dle this and it was sup­posed to be au­ton­o­mous,” Davis said. “I want to give cre­dence to the plan­ning com­mis­sion for hav­ing gone through that.”

Bonnie Bick, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Smarter Growth Al­liance of Charles County, said she is pleased to see the com­mis­sion­ers come to a de­ci­sion on a plan that “their ac­tual cit­i­zens” wanted to see.

Bick said the pub­lic, who has rep­re­sented them­selves at the county’s pub­lic hear­ings on the plan, feel they are fi­nally be­ing heard. The plan di­min­ishes op­por­tu­ni­ties for sprawl de­vel­op­ment, she said, and fo­cuses on pre­serv­ing the county’s nat­u­ral re­sources and the Mat­ta­woman Creek wa­ter­shed.

“This is what we’ve wanted for years. In 2011, there were three op­tions. There was a plan sim­i­lar to this one, a mid­dle-of-the-road plan and a plan with ex­cess de­vel­op­ment,” Bick said. “Ev­ery­one wanted the plan sim­i­lar to this one. Now it’s fi­nally here.”

County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said he is thank­ful for ev­ery­one who came out to the pub­lic hear­ings and spoke on is­sues they felt strongly about. Robin­son also com­mended county staff for jump­ing “through hoops” and do­ing the leg work to piece the plan to­gether.

Robin­son said the plan leaves the county with a “blue­print” for where they move to in the com­ing years.

“This doc­u­ment will be a blue­print on how and where the county grows over the next decade and beyond,” Robin­son said in a Face­book post. “The plan al­lows am­ple ge­og­ra­phy for de­vel­op­ment, re­de­vel­op­ment and most im­por­tantly con­ser­va­tion and preser­va­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the plan’s res­o­lu­tion, it be­comes ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately, as of July 12.

Some of the amend­ments pre­vi­ously up for de­bate be­tween the county com­mis­sion­ers that are now law in­clude the des­ig­na­tion of Bryans Road as a mixe­duse vil­lage rather than a growth cen­ter for the county, des­ig­nat­ing land in­tended for the In­dian Head Tech Park be in­cluded in the county’s Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict, mov­ing 1,160 acres lo­cated south of Billings­ley Road orig­i­nally in­tended for de­vel­op­ment into the county’s Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict, grant­ing ru­ral con­ser­va­tion des­ig­na­tions to Mar­bury and Nan­je­moy, re­duc­ing the county’s de­vel­op­ment dis­trict to the size of its pri­or­ity fund­ing area and re­quir­ing devel­op­ers to keep 10 to 15 per­cent of hous­ing units in their des­ig­nated sub­di­vi­sions “mod­er­ately priced.”

When the amend­ments were de­bated at the board’s pre­vi­ous June 28 meet­ing, Davis called some of them “il­le­gal and ill-ad­vised.”

She said there could be un­in­tended con­se­quences that come from pass­ing some of th­ese amend­ments and could po­ten­tially block devel­op­ers from look­ing at Charles County as an op­tion.

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