Residents should understand impacts of WCD
By now, most residents of Charles County are aware of the proposed zoning changes resulting from the adoption of Charles County’s Comprehensive Plan. Unfortunately, most of us still don’t fully understand how the greatest restriction of property rights in generations will affect us.
I attended the past three planning commission meetings on Nov. 28, Jan. 9 and Jan. 12. It is not an exaggeration to say that there was overwhelming opposition to the creation of the Watershed Conservation District (WCD), as well as its associated zoning changes. After the Nov. 28 meeting, the county reluctantly agreed to send a letter to the affected property owners. After receiving these letters, citizens packed the Jan. 9 meeting, resulting in the continuance to the Jan. 12 meeting. This outpouring should have alerted our county to the fact that more engagement was needed. Equally troubling, there has been minimal outreach from the associated departments of county government as to how we will be impacted. There are still many unanswered questions.
From the Department of Planning, please inform your residents within the proposed 36,000 acre WCD as to whether they will be able to add on to their home, pave their driveway, add a shed, or add a sidewalk to their property if they already exceed the 8 percent impervious surface restriction being proposed. How many properties will be re-categorized “non-conforming” after these changes are enacted? Who makes the determination and when will property owners be notified? What are the implications of owning a “non-conform- ing” property? Does this have to be disclosed by sellers when they eventually try to sell their homes? Due to the impervious surface restrictions, will banks continue to lend money for home loans if the properties can’t be rebuilt, as they were, in the event of fire or damage? Isn’t it rational to think that the value of a “non-conforming” house or business will be less than that of a conforming property? Based on our proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, can’t every property in Charles County be re-zoned watershed conservation at some point in the future? From the Department of Economic Development, one of your strategic focuses was to “Support Improvement of Maryland Airport”. How does eliminating commercial and industrial zoning adjacent to the airport support improvement of Maryland Airport? How will these zoning changes help to create more high paying jobs here in Charles County?
It is important that all citizens be diligent, informed and engaged as to what is currently happening. Rights that each of us now possess as property owners are at stake. The enactment of the proposed changes will significantly limit what you can or cannot do with your property. If you’ve ever thought about renovating your home, building a shed, or paving your driveway, who should get the final say? If enacted, this decision will transfer that power from the 9,400 affected property owners to a select few in government. For those that don’t think they are affected, watch and know that you could easily be next. You can register your opposition to the WCD, and its associated zoning amendments, by sending an email to the planning department at email@example.com. Government overreach is not the solution. Open, honest dialogue is the solution to this issue. In order for this to occur, serious questions need to be asked and answered. We expect this from our elected representatives and our county government.
Brian Klass, Nanjemoy