Al­low pro­vi­sion to cre­ate lots for fam­i­lies in Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion District

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - Nancy Smart, La Plata The writer is a mem­ber of the Smarter Growth Al­liance for Charles County.

The re­cent pub­lic hear­ings on the Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion District (WCD) gave rise to con­sid­er­able pas­sion­ate tes­ti­mony, some un­civil be­hav­ior and lit­tle in the way of com­pro­mise.

As a res­i­dent and farm owner within the WCD, I am happy to write on be­half of the Smarter Growth Al­liance for Charles County to strongly en­dorse the district. At the same time, the Smarter Growth Al­liance un­der­stands the need to get the WCD “right.” Af­ter thought­fully re­gard­ing the views of many of our fel­low cit­i­zens who ex­pressed a de­sire to pro­vide res­i­dences for a fam­ily mem­ber, we be­lieve that a pro­vi­sion should be added al­low­ing for the cre­ation of lots for chil­dren within a fam­ily owned par­cel.

By re­duc­ing build­ing den­sity, the Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion District fi­nally reins in the ram­pant growth that is be­dev­il­ing our qual­ity of life, de­stroy­ing our cher­ished ru­ral char­ac­ter and dam­ag­ing our valu­able wa­ter­ways like Mat­ta­woman Creek and the Port To­bacco River. The Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion District is a key el­e­ment of the new Com­pre­hen­sive Plan, which evolved over five years of meet­ings, sur­veys, hear­ings, cit­i­zen tes­ti­mony and pe­ti­tions. The plan, which re­flects the pub­lic will as ex­pressed dur­ing that process, re­spon­si­bly di­rects growth, conser ves nat­u­ral ar­eas and re­spects our qual­ity of life.

Un­der the old Com­pre­hen­sive Plan, land within the Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion District would have pro­duced at least 17,000 new hous­ing units, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic tes­ti­mony by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the real-es­tate in­dus­try. Al­low­ing that would con­tinue the path that has seen sprawl de­vel­op­ment re­place for­est and farm­land, and made Charles the worst county in the state for com­mute times, use of school trail­ers and prop­erty-tax hikes that are needed to ser­vice far-flung sprawl, which never pays for it­self.

Pol­luted runoff from pave­ment has al­ready dam­aged Mat­ta­woman Creek, which has de­clined from “best trib­u­tary to the [Ch­e­sa­peake] Bay” to the tip­ping point for ir­repara­ble harm, ac­cord­ing to fish­ery sci­en­tists’ data. De­graded wa­ter­ways fore­close out­door recre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties and the tourism econ­omy. The WCD ad­dresses these prob­lems with lower den­sity. It’s not a new ap­proach. Nine other coun­ties in Mary­land fac­ing sim­i­lar loss of ru­ral char­ac­ter have en­acted build­ing den­si­ties as low as, or lower than, the Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion District.

The Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion District, once a pro­vi­sion al­low­ing for the cre­ation of lots for chil­dren is added, is a crit­i­cal part of a fam­ily-friendly Com­pre­hen­sive Plan.

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