De­vel­op­ment re­quire­ments change with new com­pre­hen­sive plan zon­ing

Res­i­dents de­bate what new lim­its will bring

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

Over and over again, sup­port­ers of Charles County’s newly rat­i­fied com­pre­hen­sive plan have talked pos­i­tively about how the plan elim­i­nates “sprawl” de­vel­op­ment.

Lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and plan sup­port­ers have said the Charles County com­mis­sion­ers should be com­mended for pass­ing a plan that cit­i­zens have been ask­ing for for years.

“They fi­nally lis­tened to what their ac­tual cit­i­zens wanted,” Bon­nie Bick, for­mer Chap­man’s For­est Foun­da­tion pres­i­dent and Sierra Club mem­ber, said when the com­mis­sion­ers first passed the plan.

But the con­tro­versy over the 105-acre plot of land in Nan­je­moy be­ing con­sid­ered for the Wash­ing­ton’s Dis­cov­ery sub­di­vi­sion be­ing planned by Lorenzi, Dodds and Gun­nill, a land­scap­ing ar­chi­tec­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal plan­ning group, has prompted dis­cus­sion among cit­i­zens on whether larger sub­di­vi­sions such as this one are in the spirit of the county’s new com­pre­hen­sive plan.

Bick and oth­ers have said this sub­di­vi­sion plan would go against the spirit of the county’s new com­pre­hen­sive plan and is ex­actly what sprawl de­vel­op­ment looks like. Sub­di­vi­sions like this one may do harm to the en­vi­ron­ment in ir­repara­ble ways, she said.

The area is in Nan­je­moy,

which the county has plans on chang­ing to a ru­ral le­gacy area, Bick said, and will be des­ig­nated as a pri­or­ity preser­va­tion area. A de­vel­op­ment like this pre­vents preser­va­tion, she said.

While some be­lieve large sub­di­vi­sions like Wash­ing­ton’s Dis­cov­ery are be­ing lined up for ap­proval, oth­ers say they could be in danger with the new com­pre­hen­sive plan’s zon­ing reg­u­la­tions.

Out­side of the county’s de­vel­op­ment dis­trict in the north­ern por­tion of the county, which is the same size as its pri­or­ity funding area, there will be many con­sid­er­a­tions plan­ners have to make when cre­at­ing a site plan for a project.

County Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said the next stage in the process for the com­pre­hen­sive plan is to of­fi­cially re-zone the county ac­cord­ing to the plan.

New zon­ing will be de­vel­oped ac­cord­ing to dif­fer­ent land use dis­tricts in the county. Den­si­ties across the county for dif­fer­ent zones will change.

Robin­son said it will take “about a year” to com­plete all the changes in the process.

The com­mis­sion­ers will be briefed some­time this month on the sched­ule for zon­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion over the next year for the com­pre­hen­sive plan, Robin­son said.

“We think it’s go­ing to be a year long process. There are a lot of changes and each one of those goes through the pub­lic process,” Robin­son said. “We want to make sure we get it right.”

In the county’s wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict, which in­cludes the Mat­ta­woman Stream Val­ley area along with 1,160 acres east of the dis­trict that in­clude the Port To­bacco wa­ter­shed area, there will be one dwell- ing unit per­mit­ted per 20 acres.

Den­si­ties in agri­cul­tural con­ser­va­tion and ru­ral con­ser­va­tion ar­eas are also shift­ing from one unit per three acres to one unit per 10 acres.

Gary Hodge, a for­mer county com­mis­sioner and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment con­sul­tant, said this will be detri­men­tal to prop­erty own­ers in the west­ern and south­ern por­tions of the county.

With the amount of space for de­vel­op­ment shrink­ing per acre, Hodge said, the plans for de­vel­op­ing land must change.

“We re­ally don’t have any idea how this plan will change things,” he said. “We’re talk­ing one unit per 20 acres. That’s huge.”

Within the com­pre­hen­sive plan, the county ac­knowl­edges that there were pre­vi­ous projects planned in the area where the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict is now lo­cated that re­quired sewer and wa­ter. Those projects will have le­gal, non-con­form­ing uses once zon­ing is official ac­cord­ing to the plan.

But still, Hodge said, for com­mon cit­i­zens and prop­erty own­ers in Charles County, that changes what they can do in the fu­ture. And that may af­fect how peo­ple view Charles County in the fu­ture.

There are still some who are dis­ap­pointed in de­vel­op­ments con­tin­u­ously be­ing ap­proved.

Linda Red­ding, a Nan­je­moy res­i­dent liv­ing on Adams Wil­lett Road, said she is in op­po­si­tion of the Wash­ing­ton’s Dis­cov­ery plan, but also said the sur­round­ing area can­not sup­port such de­vel­op­ment.

Red­ding said the plan­ning com­mis­sion has been “rub­ber stamp­ing” projects like this over many years. Wash­ing­ton’s Dis­cov­ery, along with other sub­di­vi­sions, need more con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore ap­proval, she said.

The board of county com­mis­sion­ers is aware that the plan­ning com­mis­sion is re­view­ing the Wash­ing­ton’s Dis­cov­ery, but like any other plan, they will re­main out of it Robin­son said.

He said the county com­mis­sion­ers com­pletely place their trust in the plan­ning com­mis­sion and be­lieve they will make the right de­ci­sions re­gard­ing any sub­di­vi­sion plans, large or small, that come be­fore them. As long as they fit the land use cri­te­ria for the area, he said, things will be fine.

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