County Dems op­pose WCD

Bowl­ing, com­mit­tee move to pen let­ter to com­mis­sion­ers

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

The Charles County Demo­cratic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee is now an­other or­ga­ni­za­tion join­ing the op­po­si­tion to Charles County’s pro­posed Wa- ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict in the western part of the county.

In a 10-2 vote, with Vir- ginia Bene­dict and Linda Davis be­ing the votes of dis­sent, the com­mit­tee moved to pen a let­ter to the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers stat­ing their op­po­si­tion to the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict at its monthly meet­ing Tues­day even­ing.

Nor­mally, a cen­tral com­mit­tee would not con­sider mak­ing a mo­tion like this against five

Demo­crat com­mis­sion­ers, but com­mit­tee chair­man Gil­bert Bowl­ing said enough of the demo­cratic pub­lic in Charles County had con­cerns about the dis­trict to take ac­tion.

“We are in touch with the peo­ple in this com- mu­nity,” Bowl­ing said. “We’re lis­ten­ing to you and we’re sup­port­ing you. I would think that that would have a lit­tle weight [when con­sid­ered by com­mis­sion­ers]. And it’s not at­tack­ing. I’m telling you, I’m not go­ing to at­tack them.”

Ja­son Henry, who made the orig­i­nal mo­tion to write the let­ter, said the dis­trict is im­pact­ing the prop­erty that has been in his fam­ily for 152 years. Their plan, he said, was to di­vide it from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. This plan would pre­vent that.

“With the stroke of a pen,” Henry said. “No valid study, en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact or fi­nan­cial. We don’t know what the out­come is go­ing to be.”

The 8 per­cent im­per­vi­ous sur­face cap lim­its how large a house some­one can build on their prop­erty, he said, not­ing there are 13 pre­domi- nantly black churches in the area that would be af­fected by the dis­trict’s re­stric­tions.

But Davis said she saw things with the dis­trict dif­fer­ently. De­spite a healthy ma­jor­ity of the com­mit­tee vot­ing in op­po­si­tion, she noted she has seen enough traf­fic and de­vel­op­ment in the area. There needs to be some con­trol over it all, she said.

“I have my rea­sons,” she said. “I’ve been in the county for a num­ber of years. I’ve seen de­vel- op­ment that has gone awry.”

There are many pos­i­tives about the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict that peo­ple are not talk­ing about, Davis said. Many peo­ple are dis­cussing prop­erty val­ues fall­ing, but she does not an­tic­i­pate that hap­pen­ing. Bene­dict agreed. “I love this county, but I don’t like the way it’s go­ing,” she said.

But com­mit­tee mem­ber John Coller said what the com­mis­sion­ers are do­ing amounts to “a tak- ing” and peo­ple are un­justly hav­ing their land con­fis­cated from them.

In Amer­ica, he said, “if you don’t like what some­one is do­ing with their land, you buy it from them.”

“The old-fash­ioned Amer­i­can way,” he said. “And in­stead, we have some­body who’s us­ing the WCD to take it. It’s time to mo­bi­lize. Let them know that it’s not fair to take other peo­ple’s prop­erty. This isn’t a Demo­crat idea. This isn’t what we stand for. We’re not com­mu­nists; we’re Democrats.”

Abena McAl­lis­ter, trea­surer of the com­mit­tee, said she be­lieves in the dis­trict’s premise of pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, but can­not sup­port it be­cause peo­ple will lose their prop­erty rights in the process.

What the county should con­sider do­ing, she said, is com­pen­sat­ing peo­ple for the losses on their prop­erty val­ues.

“There is a lot of build­ing tak­ing place in St. Charles that a lot of peo­ple have is­sue with. A lot of peo­ple don’t want to see that on the other side of the county,” she said. “I un­der­stand that, but the rea­son I’m vot­ing for this is be­cause I be­lieve peo­ple are en­ti­tled to prop­erty rights. If we are go­ing to do this, let’s com­pen­sate peo­ple.”

The county does have spe­cific land ac­qui­si­tion pro­grams that are nor­mally used for farm­ers, Bowl­ing said. It is pos­si­ble that they could sug­gest to the county — as a means of com­pro­mise — that the county use their pro­grams to buy cer­tain prop­erty from cit­i­zens.

Ul­ti­mately, Bowl­ing said, some fam­i­lies live off of their land. In some cases it can be all they have on which to re­tire. And be­cause of that, he said, the com­mit­tee must take ac­tion to ad­dress cit­i­zens’ con­cerns.

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