The importance of having a plan in place
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.