County must rethink growth with new Comprehensive plan
Future development continues to be source of contention
take away natural resources, Robinson said.
And, ultimately, Robinson said, strategies like changing those two areas tier designations and changing Bryans Road into a mixed-use village rather than a growth center will shift limiting, but there are some who believe new strategies for growth are attainable while focusing on preservation.
Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) has consistently said the county’s new comprehensive plan, despite being called short-sighted by some in the business community, is what is best for the county moving forward.
Areas like Nanjemoy and Marbury, which were previously open to development before being changed to rural conservation areas, just were not fit for land shifting projects that would
Just like with anything, there are always two sides to every story. And the new Charles County Comprehensive Plan is no different.
There are some who believe the plan is short sighted and
opportunities to other places in Western Charles County.
“I think by changing the designation we will be encouraging development, or redevelopment in Indian Head,” Robinson said. “There is certainly enough abandoned strip malls and buildings that we can redevelop it without having to cut down a single tree.”
But while the plan has policies dedicated to limiting “sprawl development,” there are some who question the county’s ability to grow in such a reduced area.
David Jenkins, the chief executive officer of the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors, said, with the plan being just approved and put into law, it remains unclear what effects it could have on the real estate market in the county.
Specifically, Jenkins said, amendments pertaining to housing will have some type of effect on the real estate market. The amendment requiring the county to have an 80-15-5 percentage split between single family homes, townhomes and apartment complexes as well as the one requiring developers to make 10 to 15 percent of the homes in a 20 unit subdivision “moderately priced.”
“There will be some effect. We just don’t know what it is yet,” Jenkins said. “It’s hard to say what will happen. It’s kind of an unknown territory.”
The best part of the plan, Robinson said, is that it “clearly designates” what areas should and should not be developed. That is what the plan was previously missing and what the county needed before.
Shrinking the county’s development district will not hurt business, he said, but will give it more direction. And there are other ways to grow the county economically without reducing its natural resources.
The county reduced its development district from 52,200 acres to 23,360 acres to encompass its priority funding area in the northern Waldorf portion of the county.
Overall, that may not be a bad thing for business. But it is too early to tell at this point, Jenkins said.
Jim Long, president of the Mattawoman Watershed Society, said he and the society are thrilled by what the plan offers to the county.
“For the first time in a long time,” he said, it takes Mattawoman Creek protection seriously.
Long said the need for development in the county is not greater than the need to protect the creek.
“I don’t have a good answer for why people do not support this plan,” Long said. “When you look back, people were quite tired of unchecked growth that brings overcrowded schools and congested commuter routes.”
When the debate over a new comprehensive plan started in 2011, Long said, people made clear that they did not want to see more development but wanted to see the county’s rural side further preserved. This plan addresses those people, he said.
But Brian Klaas, a member of the board of directors at the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, said the county previously came to compromises, and that is something that was not done with the new plan.
The viability of the western portion of the county, especially Indian Head, Klaas said, will likely suffer a great deal. Developments like the now defunct Indian Head Tech Park, could have served as an economic hub for the county.
The trust people place in the board of commissioners in the western portion of the county will continue to diminish, Klaas said, because of previous promises made.
“The thing about the western side of the county is that we feel promises over the years have been made and promise after promise has been broken,” Klaas said.
Many supporters of the county’s new comprehensive plan are people who initially endorsed the development of a 50 acre section of land in Chapman’s Forest for development in 2005, Klaas said, including Bonnie Bick of the Mattawoman Campaign for the Sierra Club.
But the letter does not explicitly state the county would build the tech park on that land despite that becoming the eventual plan of the commissioners in 2005. There is no mention of the tech park in the letter.
But Klaas said it seems as though everyone is “going back on their word” and that does not bode well for the business future of the county.
But Robinson said the tech park never had much interest from any businesses and should never have been an idea in the first place. The tech park was designated for an area meant to be preserved.
This was not an initiative started by the current board of county commissioners. Robinson said there were outside pressures to keep the tech park as a viable option, but “you have to do what you think is best,” he said. What was best was preserving the county’s natural resources.
Plus, there are other ways to grow the county economically that are currently being worked on. In 2017, Mallows Bay will likely become a National Sanctuary and lead to many tourism opportunities in Charles County. It will be one of the biggest commodities in the county, he said.
“For example, we just attracted Atlantic Kayak to locate in Indian Head, which was located in Alexandria [Virginia], right on to Mattawoman Creek,” Robinson said. “That’s small business. And when Mallows Bay is designated as a marine sanctuary, that’s going to bring a lot of visitors to the county to enjoy what we have. This comprehensive plan will ensure it will continue to be that way.”