Res­i­dents open up against Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict

Bill Dot­son: ‘It’s about prop­erty rights’

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

This passed year the Charles County com­mis­sion­ers passed their first com­pre­hen­sive plan in 10 years map­ping out what could po­ten­tially be the shape of Charles County over the next few decades.

The plan fo­cused on preser­va­tion and the cen­tral­iza­tion of de­vel­op­ment in spe­cific ar­eas of the county. While there were some res­i­dents who were sat­is­fied with that, there were many oth­ers who were not.

And those oth­ers met last Wed­nes­day evening to dis­cuss ways to pre­vent the plan’s rec­om­men­da­tions from tak­ing hold of the county. Specif­i­cally, res­i­dents and so­cial lead­ers took is­sue

with the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict, which they be­lieve will strip ci­ti­zens of their prop­erty rights.

“It’s not about de­vel- op­ment or be­ing pro-de­vel­op­ment,” Bill Dot­son, chair­man of the Charles County Repub­li­can Central Com­mit­tee, said. “It’s about prop­erty rights.”

Dot­son, who or­ga­nized the meet­ing, said there are two dis­tinct dif­fer­enc- es be­tween the two sides. The big­gest con­cern, he said, is hav­ing a cit­i­zen’s right to do as they please with their prop­erty re­moved.

De­vel­op­ment re­stric- tions have been placed within the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict of the com­pre­hen­sive plan. There can be one lot per 20 acres ac­cord­ing to the plan. Any de­vel­op­ment planned with more den­sity than one lot per 20 acres would not be al­lowed to con­tinue un­less it is more than 25 per­cent com­pleted in its pre­lim­i­nary plan, had a pre­vi­ously ap­proved de­vel­oper rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties agree­ment or had been built out pre­vi­ously.

Tim Less­ner, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from land plan­ning and en­gi­neer­ing firm Lorenzi, Dodds and Gun­nill, at­tended the meet­ing to ex­plain how the plan and the wa­ter- shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict work to res­i­dents. Less­ner said he was a neu­tral party, but said the dis­trict could po­ten­tial- ly cause is­sues for resi- dents look­ing to sell land or ex­pand their prop­erty.

“If you had a sub­di­vi­sion, pre­vi­ously it could be, hy­po­thet­i­cally, if you had 100 acres you could put 100 lots on it. The plan would cut it down to five lots,” he said.

Less­ner said his com- pany was in the process of pur­chas­ing a prop­erty from a 99-year-old wom- an in the western por- tion of the county where most of the dis­trict is pro­posed. But be­cause of the plan, there are buy­ers who are hes­i­tant to look at the prop­erty be­cause of dif­fer­ent restric­tions.

Dot­son said that is the rea­son why the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict has to be amended.

“That was that woman’s re­tire­ment. Her land was her re­tire­ment. She can’t do any­thing,” he said.

Arthur El­lis, a county res­i­dent and the com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for the Charles County NAACP, said enough is enough when it comes to prop­erty restric­tions. Peo­ple need di­rec­tion and need to know who to go to to make a change.

No one saw this com- ing, El­lis said, and peo­ple need to be prop­erly noti- fied of who to speak with and who to talk to.

The plan­ning com­mis­sion­ers orig­i­nally cre­ated the com­pre­hen­sive plan, but Gil­bert Bowl­ing, chair­man of the Demo­cratic Central Com­mit- tee, said the plan is not ex­actly what was in­tended by the plan­ning com- mis­sion­ers.

Bowl­ing, who is the son of Gil­bert “Buddy” Bowl- ing, out­go­ing chair of the plan­ning com­mis­sion, said the plan­ning com­mis­sion orig­i­nally in­tended for the plan to limit the re­stric­tion to just one unit per ev­ery 10 acres, but the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers in­creased the acreage to 20.

“That wasn’t their in­ten­tion at all,” Bowl­ing said. “They had it at 10 and in­creased it to 20. It was seen as a com­pro­mise orig­i­nally, but it was changed.”

Dot­son said all too of­ten the county comes up with pro­pos­als that go over the heads of their res­i­dents and into law. This is a chance, he said, to show the com­mis­sion­ers that the res­i­dents of Charles County do not want restric­tions on their prop­erty.

The vote to ap­prove the plan was 3-2 with County Com­mis­sioner Vice Pres­i­dent De­bra Davis (D) and County Com­mis­sioner Bobby Rucci (D) be­ing the votes of dissent. All the ci­ti­zens need to do, Dot­son said, is con­vince one com­mis­sioner to re­con­sider.

The cit­i­zen group’s plan is to mo­bi­lize res­i­dents and get them to speak at the Jan. 9 meet­ing on the zon­ing for the com- pre­hen­sive plan where many of the con­cepts be­ing pro­posed will turn into law.

Be­fore the Jan. 9 meet­ing, Dot­son said the Charles County Repub­li­can Central Com­mit­tee will or­ga­nize a meet­ing on Jan. 5 in White Plains once again to fur­ther draw out what ex­actly needs to be said at the Jan. 9 meet­ing.

“It takes all of us, not just busi­ness peo­ple. Not just real es­tate agents. But all of us to make this change,” Dot­son said.

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