Wa­ter­shed dis­trict says county is not open for busi­ness

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

This let­ter was sent to the Charles County Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers. A copy was also sent to the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent.

I am and have been for more than 40 years a res­i­dent of Charles County. My prop­erty, that I have lived on since 1976, is within the pro­posed Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict (WCD). I am op­posed to the down­zon­ing to cre­ate the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict.

The right to own and use prop­erty is at the very foun­da­tion of Amer­ica. For folks that own prop­erty within the WCD, those rights are be­ing taken. Cer­tainly gov­ern­ments have been al­lowed to re­strict those rights to some ex­tent through zon­ing, but the tak­ing of the rights by the gov­ern­ment should be a last re­sort to cor­rect a sig­nif­i­cant and se­ri­ous prob­lem that can­not be re­solved by any other means. There are other meth­ods avail­able to achieve the goals of pro­tect­ing the Mat­ta­woman and Port To­bacco creeks, with many of those al­ready on the books and achiev­ing re­sults.

The WCD has been con­ceived and re­duced to an out­line on a map to pro­tect the Mat­ta­woman Creek and Port To­bacco Creek head­wa­ters. The re­al­ity is that it will not do any­thing to pro­tect those re­sources. One needs only to look at how the bound­ary is drawn to see that in part of the WCD, the bound­ary closely fol­lows the head­wa­ter streams and in other parts of the WCD, the bound­ary is drawn many miles from the creeks and streams. It is an ar­bi­trary and capri­ciously de­fined zon­ing area cre­ated by po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion to sat­isfy a small group of preser­va­tion­ists at the ex­pense of a large num­ber of prop­erty own­ers who have nei­ther the time nor money to in­vest in fight­ing the tak­ing of rights.

We need to ac­knowl­edge that all the de­vel­op­ment in the north­ern and western part of the county im­pacts the creeks. Ad­di­tion­ally, a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the Mat­ta­woman head­wa­ters lie in South­ern Prince Ge­orge’s County, specif­i­cally the Brandy­wine area. The de­vel­op­ment in this area has no re­stric­tions re­lated to the Mat­ta­woman. To sin­gle out a ru­ral area of western Charles County and boast that by down­zon­ing that we have made any im­prove­ment to the wa­ter­shed is un­true and dis­hon­est. Much of the WCD area was al­ready put in a sep­tic tier that does not per­mit any large de­vel­op­ments. The school al­lo­ca­tion process has, in many cases, shut down de­vel­op­ment out­side of St. Charles and will con­tinue to con­trol how quickly and where new homes can be built.

Thou­sands of acres in the In­dian Head/ Bryans Road area have been bought by the state and the county to elim­i­nate the po­ten­tial for new homes or busi­nesses. The preser­va­tion­ists say that 17,000 new homes com­ing are to the WCD. This num­ber is ridicu­lous, un­sub­stan­ti­ated and de­signed to mis­in­form cit­i­zens. There has been lit­tle de­vel­op­ment in the In­dian Head, Mar­bury, Ri­son, Iron­sides, Don­caster and Nan­je­moy ar­eas for many years. This his­tory shows that the county has ad­e­quate con­trols in place with­out a WCD to as­sure that de­vel­op­ment in Western Charles County is re­spon­si­bly con­trolled.

Cre­ation of the WCD will be a huge de­ter­rent to new busi­ness lo­cat­ing here. Growth in the county needs to fo­cus on busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, so that res­i­dents have an op­por­tu­nity to have a job in the county that pays enough to be able to af­ford to live here. When busi­ness sees a gov­ern­ment fo­cused short­sight­edly on preser­va­tion to the near to­tal ex­clu­sion of other con­sid­er­a­tions, they go some­where else. Thou­sands of acres near the base in In­dian Head have been com­pletely put off-lim­its to busi­ness and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ment; un­der the WCD, the busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties af­forded by the air­port will also be squan­dered. You are send­ing a very strong and un­mis­tak­able mes­sage: Charles County is not open for busi­ness.

Dur­ing the re­view and ap­proval process for the Com­pre­hen­sive Plan, Com­mis­sion­ers Mur­phy, Ste­wart and Robin­son ex­panded the WCD from its orig­i­nal 10-acre pro­posal to its cur­rent 20-acre des­ig­na­tion with­out hear­ing about or con­sid­er­ing the im­pact to the prop­erty own­ers af­fected. The im­per­vi­ous sur­face re­quire­ment was also added — again, with­out any ef­fort to un­der­stand the im­pact. Fi­nally you at­tempted to push this all through the sys­tem over the end-of-the-year hol­i­days with min­i­mal no­ti­fi­ca­tion in the hopes that no one would no­tice. Well, I and many other county cit­i­zens no­ticed!

The WCD zon­ing changes are nei­ther re­quired nor nec­es­sary to im­ple­ment the Com­pre­hen­sive Plan signed in July. There are many facets of the plan that re­quire work to turn the plan into re­sults. Why is the WCD the most im­por­tant and only part of the plan that re­quires im­me­di­ate im­ple­men­ta­tion? Why not take the time to fairly and ad­e­quately eval­u­ate the im­pact of the WCD on the af­fected res­i­dents and the county as a whole, and ef­fec­tively and im­par­tially com­mu­ni­cate both the pos­i­tives and the neg­a­tives to the af­fected res­i­dents and the en­tire county be­fore im­ple­ment­ing the down­zon­ing?

I urge you to ta­ble the down­zon­ing and fo­cus your ef­forts on im­ple­ment­ing the parts of the plan that will ben­e­fit cit­i­zens rather than dis­en­fran­chis­ing cit­i­zens.

John Brough, In­dian Head

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