Comprehensive plan causes confusion, restrictions on development districts
This letter is response to the Sept. 7 Maryland Independent article, “Development requirements change with new comprehensive plan zoning.”
While the comprehensive plan has been adopted, the referenced article and previous ones have identified critical concerns ignored during the flawed public hearing process. The Development District was reduced by 23,360 acres (55 percent), with new land use designations that will significantly reduce residential densities. To implement the comprehensive plan, “new zoning will be developed according to the different land use districts in the county.”
This drastic reduction was at odds with the county planning staff June 10 memorandum to the Charles County Board of Commissioners that the proposal to reduce the size of the development district is “fraught with difficulties in implementation and impacts.” It further states that “This will create a land use district that is checkered with developments at 3-5 units per acre and newly rezoned areas at much lower densities. There also remains the question of whether or not approved projects in these areas can advance with development if no longer consistent with the plan. This raises various legal questions that cannot be answered at this time.”
Downzoning will cause existing development that exceeds the new density limits to becoming nonconforming. In addition, a nonconforming situation could lose the grandfather protections if the use is discontinued for a period of one year or more. These limitations on the ability to improve or alter a nonconforming property can reduce its market value and would likely make it difficult for the owner of a nonconforming property to obtain financing for needed improvements.
We question whether the county commissioners have adequately considered the negative impacts that the proposal to redraw the boundaries of the primary development district to match the boundaries of the PFA located in the northern (Waldorf) area of the county would have on the development potential and market value of affected property. What is the cost of this massive downzoning, where property values were diminished, commercial and industrial uses around the airport were taken with no compensation to the land owners? A 50-acre piece that was granted in the Chapmans Landing agreement has been now taken away with no potential for tax income to the citizens of our county. Future tax revenue and the potential for skilled jobs all lost.
This and other verbal testimony and written comments were provided at the two public hearings, but to no avail as the commissioners ignored these and other similar issues, all impacting property rights and due process.
We will continue speak on behalf of our 1,538 members (540 in Charles County) about property rights.
Steve Paul, Hughesville The writer is the president of the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors.