In­dian Head open to new ideas for de­vel­op­ment, growth

Mayor mulling im­pact of new comp plan for area

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

With the new com­pre­hen­sive plan in place, peo­ple around the county will have to re­think what growth is and fol­low the plan’s new guide­lines for re­de­vel­op­ment.

With the plan’s new des­ig­na­tion for Bryans Road as a vil­lage rather than a growth cen­ter and a con­cen­tra­tion on re­de­vel­op­ment in ar­eas that need it, the new plan could pro­mote growth for In­dian Head.

At this point, it is unclear ex­actly how new reg­u­la­tion will help the town — or if it will at all — but In­dian Head Mayor Bran­don Paulin said no mat­ter what the out­comes of the plan are, the town will “keep chug­ging along.”

“Things that we do will af­fect things around us. As a town, we’re go­ing to keep mov­ing along,” Paulin said. “I’m ex­cited. In terms of the Town of In­dian Head, I’m not sure how it will af­fect us. But we’ll see as we go along.”

The Bryans Road change in des­ig­na­tion will cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for the town, Paulin said, which is some­thing the town will def­i­nitely “hop on.” But, he said, he does hope that any gains In­dian Head makes does not de­ter any­one from mak­ing in­vest­ments in other ar­eas of the county.

There are “two coins” to that sce­nario, Paulin said. Some peo­ple be­lieve send­ing de­vel­op­ment out­side of Bryans Road will help In­dian Head and some be­lieve it could hurt In­dian Head.

“I’m kind of in the mid­dle on that one. I see the downsides of both,” Paulin said. “I think the mar­ket can sus­tain both, but it de­pends on how the mar­ket goes.”

A big part of the Town of In­dian Head and its econ­omy is the In­dian Head Naval Base, Charles County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said. The county is cur­rently look­ing for ways to con­tinue to mar­ket the town as a com­mu­nity with the base while pro­vid­ing dif­fer­ent in­cen­tives for peo­ple out­side of the base to live there.

Andy Reve­los, a pub­lic af­fairs spe­cial­ist for the base, said the town has al­ways been a “re­li­able part­ner” for the Navy. The base did not par­tic­i­pate di­rectly in the com­pre­hen­sive plan, he said, but through the re­cently passed In­dian Head joint land use study led by the county, there is po­ten­tial for growth around the base.

Some find­ings used in the study were put into the com­pre­hen­sive plan, he said.

“The JLUS was an ideal fo­rum for mil­i­tary and com­mu­nity part­ners to map out po­ten­tial fu­ture growth in a way that is com­pat­i­ble for both NSF In­dian Head and the com­mu­nity,” Reve­los said.

The county re­cently ap­proved $67,000 for a new fiber op­tic cable through the town, which will cost a lit­tle more than $300,000 for in­stal­la­tion. The state pro­vided a $211,000 grant on top of what the county pro­vided, leav­ing min­i­mal costs for the town.

On one hand, Paulin said the town is al­ways grate­ful for ini­tia­tives like the fiber op­tic line and are al­ways go­ing to be open to any help any­one may have to of­fer to im­prove the town.

“It’s some­thing I look for­ward to talk­ing with the county about more in the fu­ture,” Paulin said. “The county is start­ing to keep an eye on In­dian Head and that’s the way I want to keep it.”

But on the other hand, Paulin said, while he ap­pre­ci­ates the county’s help and will al­ways ac­cept it, he will ac­cept help from “who­ever wants to give it” in order to bring busi­nesses back into the town and get rid of the va­cant lots in the area. And how the com­pre­hen­sive plan will help do that is unclear at this point.

The In­dian Head Tech Park was thought of as an op­tion un­der pre­vi­ous county lead­er­ship, but Paulin said the tech park prop­erty was lo­cated closer to Bryans Road than In­dian Head and would not have had much of an im­pact.

With the county shrink­ing its de­vel­op­ment district to the size of its pri­or­ity fund­ing area in the north­ern por­tion of the county, the idea of hav­ing a busi­ness park on that prop­erty is all but gone. But Paulin said that is not some­thing he would have been op­posed to hav­ing.

“We would wel­come that with open arms. There’s a lot of growth on that Navy base and they’re al­ways look­ing for stuff like that,” Paulin said.

As far as what to do with the prop­erty now, Paulin said, if there can be some “win-win” sce­nario where peo­ple who are sup­port­ers of a busi­ness tech park and peo­ple who are against sprawl de­vel­op­ment can come to­gether for a so­lu­tion that could ben­e­fit In­dian Head, he said he would sup­port it.

Bon­nie Bick, the for­mer Chap­man’s For­est Foun­da­tion pres­i­dent, said hav­ing a busi­ness park in that area was never the right thing for the county to do.

In 2005 when the state signed over a 50-acre por­tion of Chap­man’s For­est to the county, Bick said the un­der­stand­ing was that the land would be used for en­vi­ron­men­tal pur­poses and pro­tect­ing the watershed in the area.

But the county had its own in­ten­tions that were not dis­cussed with the foun­da­tion, Bick said, of build­ing the tech park.

“It was a ter­ri­ble de­ci­sion they made be­hind our backs,” Bick said. “It was never the best use of the land there, which is sen­si­tive and needs to be pre­served.”

Robin­son said many por­tions of the land in the area of the tech park are sen­si­tive and would not be able to sup­port that type of de­vel­op­ment even if the county wanted to move for­ward with a tech park.

As far as work­able so­lu­tions for the area go­ing for­ward, Paulin said he does not have any an­swers, but as al­ways he is “open to any ideas any­one has” for the land as long as they ben­e­fit In­dian Head.

Robin­son said the county is cur­rently in talks with dif­fer­ent de­vel­op­ers about the land and cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal cen­ter for ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses in that area. It is also be­ing con­sid­ered as a po­ten­tial tourism cen­ter for when Mal­lows Bay is des­ig­nated as a Na­tional Sanc­tu­ary next year.

But the bot­tom line, Robin­son said, is the county is not done with the prop­erty.

“We want some­thing that is more ap­pro­pri­ate for the site than was pre­vi­ously pro­posed,” he said.

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