Plan­ning com­mis­sion de­bates ef­fects of wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district

Mem­ber con­cerned prop­erty val­ues in area will be dam­aged

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

The county is still work­ing on cre­at­ing pol­icy to match the reg­u­la­tion of the com­pre­hen­sive plan con­serv­ing the county’s nat­u­ral re­sources in its south­ern por­tion.

Dur­ing Mon­day’s Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis- sion meet­ing, Steve Ball, the county’s di­rec­tor of plan­ning, came to break down the con­ser­va­tion district for the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and dis­cuss the next steps the county will take in hav­ing the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district fi­nal­ized in the western and south­ern ar­eas of the county.

The district will cover a ma­jor­ity, if not all, of the Mat­ta­woman Creek and Port To­bacco wa­ter­shed ar­eas in the county, Ball said. It was nec­es­sary to pro­tect the county’s nat­u­ral re­sources.

But to do that, he said, there were some sac­ri­fices made for po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ment in those ar­eas. This is some­thing the county is still man­ag­ing and no­ti­fy­ing its res­i­dents of, he said.

“It’s a sig­nif­i­cant change that af­fects a large amount of prop­erty in our com­mu­nity. We’re get­ting the word out and we’re get­ting ad­ver­tise­ments out,” Ball said.

Plan­ning Com­mis­sion Vice Pres­i­dent Joan Jones said she has con­cerns about the

ef­fect the district could have on res­i­dents and prop­erty own­ers in that area. Many of the ar­eas now in the district were places the county planned on de­vel­op­ing and places res­i­dents moved into with plans on liv­ing in for the fu­ture. Now that is chang- ing, she said.

“We’re talk­ing about the ru­ral con­ser­va­tion district that was at one time be­ing con­sid­ered for de­vel­op­ment,” she said. “I’m look- ing at peo­ple. How does this af­fect them?”

Things in the area are chang­ing, Ball said. There may be some prop­er­ties ef­fected.

In the water con­ser­va­tion district, there is only one dwelling unit al­lowed per 20 acres with very lit­tle ex­cep­tions. And for each de­vel­op­ment, only an 8 per­cent im­per­vi­ous sur­face thresh­old is al- lowed, Ball said.

There are de­vel­op­ers in the area who may not be able to fin­ish their de­vel­op­ment be­cause of the district’s im­ple­menta- tion. There is a six month res­o­lu­tion tem­po­rar­ily lim­it­ing dif­fer­ent types of de­vel­op­ment re­views

in prepa­ra­tion for the district’s ap­proval.

Any type of con­trac­tual agree­ment, ap­proved site de­vel­op­ment plans, pre­lim­i­nary plans “at least 25 per­cent” ap­proved, and per­mits for ex­ist­ing lots of record will all be grand­fa­thered in, Ball said. But other­wise, prop­er­ties may be in dan­ger of not be­ing able to be com­plet- ed be­cause of the reg­ula- tions, he said.

That is con­cern­ing for peo­ple liv­ing in th­ese ar- eas, Jones said.

“At what point is this down-zon­ing sim­i­lar to the con­sid­er­a­tion of im- mi­nent domain? Where do you have com­pensa- tion for prop­erty that may be ren­dered less valu­able or prop­erty that can’t be used?” she said.

At the end of the day, Ball said, that will be left up to the le­gal sys­tem. It is “de­bat­able” he said, whether prop­erty val­ues will shrink be­cause of the new zon­ing im­ple­menta- tions.

Con­cerned prop­erty own­ers in the area may write let­ters re­quest­ing the sta­tus of their planned de­vel­op­ments to the county, Ball said. They have al­ready re­ceived “eight or 10” let­ters from peo­ple with con­cerns and said they have not been un­man­age­able to this point.

There are “thou­sands” of prop­erty own­ers who will have land im­pacted by the new zon­ing reg­u­la­tions and they will re­ceive no­tice of this, he said. The county is work­ing to get the word out via so­cial me­dia fo­rums, ad­ver­tise­ments in the news­pa­per and open dis­cus­sions at com­mis­sion meet­ings.

Plan­ning Com­mis­sioner Robin Barnes sug­gested the county look into some mid­dle ground with im­per­vi­ous sur­faces to see if there were any other ma­te­ri­als that leave sur­faces en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly but can also be ben­e­fi­cial to res­i­dents liv­ing in that area as well. Ball said that is some­thing staff has dis­cussed and will look into.

In the mean­time, he said, at the next meet­ing on Nov. 28, the com­mis­sion will hold a pub­lic hear­ing on the new district. They will close the record on Dec. 28 and pre­pare to make a rec­om­men­da­tion to the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers on Jan. 23.

If all goes as planned, the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district’s changes will be adopted in Spring of 2017.

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