Com­pre­hen­sive plan causes con­fu­sion, re­stric­tions on de­vel­op­ment dis­tricts

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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.

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