Commissioners approve final comp plan
Davis, Rucci cast dissenting votes, supporters hail balance between development and environment
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.