The im­por­tance of hav­ing a plan in place

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Af­ter much plan­ning, de­bate, dis­cus­sion, crit­i­cism and amend­ments, Charles County fi­nally has a 10-year plan in place to di­rect preser­va­tion and growth.

The much dis­cussed Com­pre­hen­sive Plan was cre­ated ear­lier this year by the county plan­ning com­mis­sion, guided by sug­ges­tions from the county com­mis­sion­ers and pub­lic in­put. The fi­nal plan was ap­proved in early July. It passed with a 3-2 vote, with Com­mis­sioner Bobby Rucci (D) and Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent De­bra Davis (D) cast­ing the dis­sent­ing votes, stat­ing they be­lieve the plan will re­strict development for years to come. They were not alone in their crit­i­cism of the plan, as some think the plan will hurt the pos­si­bil­ity of light rail tran­sit com­ing to the county and cer­tain ar­eas, in­clud­ing the Mary­land Air­port, will end up with lim­ited eco­nomic growth po­ten­tial when moved to wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion des­ig­na­tion.

Some think the big­gest un­known is how re­quir­ing the county to have an 80-15-5 per­cent­age split be­tween sin­gle fam­ily homes, town­homes and apart­ment com­plexes will af­fect real es­tate.

Sup­port­ers of the plan, in­clud­ing Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D), Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D), Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D) and nu­mer­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal groups are tout­ing that the plan clearly des­ig­nates which ar­eas of the county are open for more development and pre­serv­ing nat­u­ral re­sources in other ar­eas. In the most re­cent “In­side Your County Gov­ern­ment” col­umn pub­lished last Fri­day in the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent, Mur­phy wrote that the com­pre­hen­sive plan “pro­vides a long-range vi­sion of a new light rail tran­sit cor­ri­dor” along with cre­at­ing a 30,000-acre “Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict to pro­tect the Mat­ta­woman Creek wa­ter­shed” and also man­dates af­ford­able hous­ing in the county. These are not the only high­lights of the plan, but these are prob­a­bly among the big­gest “wins” the plan achieves.

We feel that the plan brings a bal­anced ap­proach to development in Charles County while also tak­ing much needed mea­sures to pre­serve vi­tal eco-sys­tems in the county. One only has to take a short trip across the Patux­ent River Bridge in Bene­dict to see what smart growth looks like. While its pop­u­la­tion ex­ploded in the mid 1990s and 2000s, Calvert County main­tained a ru­ral char­ac­ter and much of the county main­tains that char­ac­ter.

Charles County, on the other hand, grew far too fast dur­ing the same time pe­riod and, seem­ingly, with­out much proper plan­ning. The Com­pre­hen­sive Plan looks to right some of the wrongs “sprawl development” has had on the county. There’s noth­ing wrong with peo­ple want­ing to move here and live here, com­mut­ing to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., or the greater metropoli­tan area for work. And it is nice to not have to drive out of the county for nu­mer­ous re­tail shop­ping or din­ing op­tions. There can be a bal­ance to at­tract­ing and main­tain­ing a healthy business cul­ture and re­spect for the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. While the Com­pre­hen­sive Plan is not ab­so­lutely per­fect and some an­tic­i­pated and un­ex­pected is­sues with it may arise down the road, we can’t ex­pect ev­ery­one in­volved with its cre­ation to be clair­voy­ant. A mul­ti­tude of out­side fac­tors could af­fect the county pop­u­la­tion and cli­mate dur­ing the 10 years this plan will be in place be­fore its next re­vi­sion. But it is law now and should be fol­lowed with the best in­ten­tions in mind.

We ap­plaud ev­ery­one who had a hand in cre­at­ing this plan. It was a daunt­ing task, no doubt. The cit­i­zens had their in­put, as they should, and many of their con­cerns were ad­dressed. Now it is time to roll up our sleeves and put it to work for the bet­ter­ment of Charles County.

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