County officials say effects from WCD difficult to predict
Mallinoff says it is ‘too early to tell’ impact from comp plan
Local political activists and citizens recently spoke out against the possibility of watershed conser vation district zon- ing in western Charles County and potentially losing their “property rights” because of it.
But county officials say there is little cause
for concern among citizens, though there would be big changes coming for those intending to build subdivisions in the area.
But what those changes will be, even for subdivision own- ers, is “hard to say” at this point, Michael Mallinoff, the county administrator, said.
“That’s not to say that there isn’t a possibility that if you’re zoned for a subdivision there won’t be some changes to the value of your property,” he said.
The second hearing on the watershed conservation dis- trict is scheduled for Jan. 9 with the Charles County Plan- ning Commission.
Steve Kaii-Zeigler, the direc- tor of Planning and Growth Management for the county, said there are provisions in county law that prevent cer- tain subdivision activity until issues are settled with the comprehensive plan zoning, but outside of that there have been no determinations made on zoning for the plan.
Even if the district does come into place, Kaii-Zeigler said, everyday Charles Coun- ty citizens will not see any drastic changes being made to their properties and things they have planned for their own private spaces.
But County Commissioners’ Vice President Debra Davis (D) said the district would be unfair and is not what people moved into that area of the county for.
The watershed conserva- tion district would downsize the density for housing units in a 36,769 acre space, mostly in the western portion of the county along the Mattawom- an watershed. In the district, there will only one dwelling unit permitted per every 20 acres with few exceptions along with an 8 percent im- pervious surface threshold on properties.
Davis said though she was against many aspects of the plan, she was willing to com- promise with one dwelling unit every 10 acres as the planning commission original- ly decided on, but ultimately was outvoted 3-2 to push it up to 20.
“As citizens [living in the area], we’re all being effected by this,” Davis said.
Previously approved con- tractual agreements, approved site development plans, pre- liminary plans at least 25 per- cent approved and permits of existing lots will all be grand- fathered in along with any new zoning laws coming from the comprehensive plan.
Bill Dotson, the chairman of the Charles County Republi- can Central Committee who organized a recent meeting with concerned citizens, said although there will be some properties grandfathered in, that does nothing for the fu- ture of business in the coun- ty and any future dollars that want to move in.
Steve Ball, the county’s di- rector of planning, previously stated that “thousands” of people will be living in the area affected by change. But Kaii-Zeigler said that does not necessarily mean any effect will be negative.
“Baltimore County has done it, Hartford County has done it, Montgomery County, Frederick, most of the jurisdictions have gone through a process where rural or ag- ricultural areas were down- zoned,” Kaii-Zeigler said. “I’m not aware of any of the places of a major impact of the taxes on the properties that were downzoned.”
Evidence shows this has been done on “much larger scales” and many times before in different areas around the country, Kaii-Zeigler said, noting Charles County is no different. There is more devel- opment coming and this is just another way to be prepared for it.
Deborah Hall, the depu- ty county administrator for Charles County, said there would be many factors that go into determining what the value of a property is assessed at every three years, and the property’s use is considered in that.
However, she said, the housing market, individual pieces of property, resale values, adjacent properties and other factors go into actually settling in on property values.
And when property values are assessed, Hall said, the county is carved out into three different districts and one district is assessed per year.
“To carve out a full area of this county and say that property values will decline isn’t realistic,” she said. “That will be difficult to predict.”
But still, Dotson said, there is no telling what could happen for citizens at this point, and that can be a dangerous thing. At the Jan. 9 meeting, he said, county citizens have to show up in big numbers to make a difference and submit their testimony for when it finally gets to the county commissioners.
There were more than 100 people who spoke in favor of the district at the first meeting. So doubling or tripling that number should be the goal and may be only way to defeat it, Dotson said.
“Imagine what two or three hundred people could do,” Dotson said. “If I were a politician, and I sort of am, this would scare me if I were on the wrong side of the issue.”