County Dems oppose WCD
Bowling, committee move to pen letter to commissioners
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.