County requests citizen inquiries for individual properties in WCD
Looks to inform owners on property status
After public hearings earlier in the month, the county has found that citizens have more questions about the Comprehensive Plan’s new watershed conservation district than answers.
Included in the concerned citizenry is David Bassford, a homeowner in Marbury and the owner of a 10-acre parcel of land behind the Maryland
Airport in Indian Head on Ray Drive. Bassford said he planned to open a business on his property but because of the district’s restriction of one unit per 20 acres, he cannot.
“This was supposed to be an industrial hub for the county. It runs parallel to the airport,” Bassford said.
Bassford has owned the property for 15 years, he said, and has paid at least $5,000 in taxes on it every year. And now, he said, the property is being rezoned and will limit, if not completely restrict, what he is allowed to do with the property.
“I stand to lose at least $500,000 on that property,” he said. “For them to come along and rezone that indus- trial area without even notify- ing the owners, it shows their intent from the start. It’s ridic- ulous.”
Bassford said he is worried the county’s decision to rezone the area will limit what he can do with not only his commercial property, but also the property at his home. The 8 percent impervious surface limit that is proposed in the plan “could stop somebody from putting a simple shed or garage on their property,” he said.
Questions about where their property is located in the watershed district, whether a property can be expanded and whether their specific code has changed can be an- swered through the form, Ball said. The form can be sent through the web, dropped off at the county government building or sent through the mail to be reviewed by plan- ning staff.
For development projects that are already reviewed, he said, the county requires a zoning determination letter that engineers or developers for existing development projects are required to fill out. The form comes with a $52 dollar fee, explained Ball, and the county will research where the project is at.
“People are welcome to send an email or a phone call as well,” Ball said. “The citizen inquiries, we had quite a few for a while. They’re starting to lessen, but usually they only take a few days. We try to respond within 24 hours.”
The more details that are given, Ball said, the better and more accurate the response will be.
Bassford said he has had trouble getting in touch with the county about his property in the past. Hopefully, he said, he can get answers on specifics sooner rather than later.
It is difficult to trust the county at times, he said, because of how quickly the new zoning recommendations from the plan were pushed through. Bassford said he did not feel the county did an adequate job of informing people what was going on and what could potentially be required of them.
Bill Dotson, chairman of the Charles County Republican Central Committee and president of Modern Door and Equipment Sales in White Plains, said citizens like Bassford are fighting for their property rights. They want the ability to do as they please with their property, he said, not less control.
The “vast majority” of the people did not know what the district was, Dotson said, and that is where a lot of the confusion comes from. The county has to make changes in order to satisfy them, he noted.
”The WCD attacks disenfranchised people in the western part of the county,” he said. “It’s not about sprawl, it’s about property rights.”