Indian Head open to new ideas for development, growth
Mayor mulling impact of new comp plan for area
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.