Del­e­ga­tion speaks out against WCD

State of­fi­cials in op­po­si­tion to con­tro­ver­sial mea­sure

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

State and lo­cal is­sues are nor­mally kept sep­a­rate by elected of­fi­cials, with of­fi­cials on dif­fer­ent lev­els nor­mally re­luc­tant to en­croach on is­sues be­ing de­bated by the other side.

How­ever, on Mon­day dur­ing the Charles County Cham­ber of Com­merce’s Leg­isla­tive Break­fast at Middleton Hall in Wal­dorf, mem­bers of the Charles County Del­e­ga­tion were asked about their stances on the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict be­ing pro­posed by the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers within the com­pre­hen­sive plan.

Charles County Del­e­ga­tion Chair woman Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles), along with Del. Sally Jame­son (D-Charles) and Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles), came out in op­po­si­tion to the pro­posed

dis­trict by the county com­mis­sion­ers.

“I’m one of the res­i­dents that are be­ing im­pacted,” Pat­ter­son said. “When I heard of this ab­surd pro­posal, I was con­cerned not only for the res­i­dents, but those who would be dis­en­fran­chised and have gen­er­a­tional heirs.”

Pat­ter­son called the pro­posal of a wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict and any down­zon­ing “un­con­scionable” and said it was a “sheer over­reach” of the power the com­mis­sion­ers hold.

Jame­son said she recently spoke with Com- mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) in An­napo­lis, and they dis­cussed de­vel­op­ment of the western por­tion of the county. Pre­vi­ously, she said, the goal has al­ways been to de­velop the county and in­crease its eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

But now, she said, it seems the goal is to down­zone. If the county moves for­ward with any down­zon­ing, she said, they will not be able to fill many school seats that are cur­rently sit­ting empty.

“I tried to tell him then, if you keep down­zon­ing you are never go­ing to fill the seats that you have avail­able. McDonough, Lackey. They are al­ways go­ing to be empty un­less you do some­thing dif­fer­ently,” Jame­son said.

Ja­son Henry, the leader of the Charles County Cit­i­zens Rights Group in op­po­si­tion of the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict, said it is good to know there are state leg­is­la­tors who are sup­port­ing the cit­i­zenry against the dis­trict.

Few peo­ple in the county are in sup­port of the dis­trict at this point, Henry said, which should be an in­di­ca­tor for the com­mis­sion­ers who voted in fa­vor of the amend­ment to change their stance.

The com­mis­sion­ers — and specif­i­cally Mur­phy, Henry said — were called out by state of­fi­cials specif­i­cally. That is a good thing for the county, he said.

“They didn’t un­der­stand where they were com­ing from with this amend­ment,” Henry said. “The mil­i­tary base, the ques­tions in re­gard to the base and the pro­tec­tion of it. The [Mary­land] Air­port. Those were all rea­sons.”

The Charles County Del­e­ga­tion has been in­vited to a com­mu­nity meet­ing on March 16, Henry said, where they can hear more about the con­cerns the pub­lic has.

Their at­ten­dance has not been con­firmed yet, he said. But Henr y called it “com­fort­ing” to know that there are state of­fi­cials in sup­port of the groups stance.

One of the things that will cer­tainly be im­pacted by the down­zon­ing of the western por­tion of the county, Middleton said, is the Mary­land Air­port. The com­mis­sion­ers have asked for a busi­ness plan from the air­port, but to re­quest one at this point is dif­fi­cult, he noted.

Middleton said the owner of the air­port, Gil Bauser­man, has “ex­hausted ev­ery dol­lar he’s got” try­ing to build up the air­port and make it a vi­able op­tion for peo­ple through­out the state.

“There’s been one ob­sta­cle af­ter an­other ob­sta­cle. You’re not go­ing to get a busi­ness plan un­til a ma­jor de­vel­oper can come in here with an in­ter­est,” Middleton said. “But the first thing is, they’ve got to know whether there is any pre­dictabil­ity in the county that there is go­ing to be sup­port for a ma­jor air- port. The re­spon­si­bil­ity comes from them.”

With Na­tional Har­bor, the new MGM casino in Prince Ge­orge’s County, and the re­de­vel­op­ment of Ana­cos­tia in Wash­ing- ton, D.C., Middleton said, there is an “in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to re­ally and truly bring some jobs into In­dian Head.”

It is up to the com­mis­sion­ers to send the mes­sage, Middleton said, that they want to see more de­vel­op­ment come into In­dian Head and show that they want the area to pros­per eco­nom­i­cally. Down­zon­ing, he said, is not the way to do that.

The com­mis­sion­ers want the county to pros­per, Mur­phy said, and they be­lieve they are send­ing that mes­sage with the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict. At this point, he said, noth­ing is set in stone for the amend­ment and things can still be changed. It is too early for leg­is­la­tors to be tak­ing sides on the is­sue, Mur­phy said.

“It’s still be­ing con­sid­ered by the plan­ning com­mis­sion. They’re still work­ing through their part of the process,” Mur­phy said. “It’s a lit­tle pre­ma­ture for any­body to be mak­ing any blan­ket state­ments on th­ese kind of is­sues. We don’t even know what we’re go­ing to be get­ting yet.”

Mur­phy said he was “sur­prised” to hear mem­bers of the del­e­ga­tion take a stance on the is­sue. Mur­phy, who did not at­tend the break­fast, said it has al­ways been his be­lief that state leg­is­la­tors should not in­ter­fere or com­ment on lo­cal land use or­di­nances.

The Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict will fall un­der that cat­e­gory, he said, and should be left up to lo­cal of­fi­cials and the pub­lic they rep­re­sent.

“I be­lieve that lo­cal land use pol­icy be­longs to the lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tion. The state shouldn’t be dic­tat- ing how we do our land use plan­ning,” Mur­phy said.

Right now, Middleton said, there is a “dis­re­spect” for prop­erty own­ers. There is no need for any wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict, he said, be­cause the county al­ready has “re­source pro­tec­tion zones” around ev­ery wa­ter­way in the county.

“If you look at the degra­da­tion that was in the Mat­ta­woman [Creek] be­fore and look at where it is now, it is a suc­cess story,” Middleton said. “I just don’t see the need for this when we took mea­sures to pro­tect the Mat­ta­woman al­ready.”

But Mur­phy said the en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue is not the only one the com­mis­sion­ers have to con­sider in this sit­u­a­tion. For so long in the county, he said, it has been “ei­ther, or” when dis­cussing eco­nomic pros­per­ity and the en­vi­ron­ment. But “it has to be both,” Mur­phy said, not­ing, “We think this plan does that.” Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

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