Downzoning is attack on property rights
For folks who don’t know, to create a new “Watershed Conservation District,” Charles County is in process of rezoning 36,769 acres — 57.5 square miles — of land, comprising 9,489 separate properties. For perspective, 57.5 square miles is nearly 10 percent of the county. That 9,489 properties is a huge number, too; the U.S. Census Bureau shows only 58,865 housing units in the entire county.
All properties in the new district that are not already in the process of being developed will be downzoned to permit only one dwelling unit per 20 acres of property. This would essentially eliminate the possibility of subdividing an affected property, and would prevent people from building on land that they have acquired for that express purpose.
It largely prevents development at the Charles County airport, and contradicts previous comprehensive plans. Affected properties will lose value, ruining the long term plans that many individual people — as well as groups, like churches — had made for their properties. This action is a gross violation of property rights and constitutes a direct attack on affected property owners.
The Charles County Planning Commission and the Charles County Commissioners are responsible. Their reason? To protect the Mattawoman Creek watershed. However, their greater purpose is a concept called “smart growth,” which originated with unelected bureaucrat ideologues at the U.N., who have been pushing their undemocratic ideas of “sustainable development” for many years.
Some say this plan was openly discussed at meetings, and that everyone had a chance to weigh in. But the only people who actually had time to do that are a select group of environmentalists, mostly retired, who have dominated the agenda. It is undemocratic for a small minority of activists to make far-reaching decisions for 9,489 properties that they do not own.
It’s indisputable that thousands of properties will lose value. If a holder of a 30-acre lot could have built an additional house for their children before, and now they cannot, then the loss of value is obvious. County Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy (D) has been a driving force behind this downzoning action, along with commissioners Ken Robinson (D) and Amanda Stewart (D).
Murphy’s campaign brochure when he ran as a commissioner candidate claimed alarm about falling property values. Once elected, he enacted a transfer tax on real estate sales and now this undemocratic downzoning plan. Both actions damage property values. Murphy vowed transparency, but affected property owners haven’t even been notified. Private citizens seeking a zoning variance must notify their neighbors by certified mail; shouldn’t the county do the same?
The Charles County Republican Central Committee adamantly opposes this blatant attack on property rights in our county. We all treasure and want to preserve our natural resources, including the Mattawoman, but this is not the way to accomplish that goal. The CCRCC urges citizens to voice their opinions on this issue by attending the next meeting of the Planning Commission on Jan. 9 at the government building in La Plata.