County re­quests cit­i­zen in­quiries for in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties in WCD

Looks to in­form own­ers on prop­erty sta­tus

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

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.”

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