Watershed district says county is not open for business
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