County of­fi­cials say ef­fects from WCD dif­fi­cult to pre­dict

Malli­noff says it is ‘too early to tell’ im­pact from comp plan

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

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.”

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