WCD helps protect base operations
Like many militar y facilities, the Naval Support Facility in Indian Head faces problems from encroachment. The Watershed Conservation District (WCD) solves many of these problems by reducing building densities in areas of concern to the base. Hence the WCD protects the viability of the county’s largest employer outside the board of education.
A compatibility study from the late ‘80s, when the base was called the Naval Ordnance Station (NOS), doesn’t mince words: “Growth will increase the opportunity for conflict between NOS activities and surrounding civilian and public activities.”
Yet growth is often touted as somehow good for the base, frequently by some with real estate interests. The Chapmans’ Landing proposal is an example. However, an assistant secretary of the Navy, in reference to the project, “told local officials that development around the installation could hurt its chances at remaining a viable base of operations.” (Mar yland Independent, “Hoyer supports gov.’s plan to preserve Chapman’s,” July 3, 1998). The article also reported Congressman Hoyer saying that Charles County would need to implement land-use policies that do not “undermine our [i.e., the base’s] competitive advantage.” The WCD is just such a land-use policy.
Prior to the WCD, major subdivisions were allowed within noise-complaint zones around the base’s Stump Neck annex. The recent Joint Land-Use Study (JLUS) listed complaints as a concern. By lowering the density of future development there, the WCD greatly reduces the chances that complaints will constrain the base’s activities and hence jeopardize its mission.
The WCD reduces density in what the compatibility study called a “reservoir” of growth potential that would create problems if developed. The JLUS concurs that “community growth” is a concern. Among the issues is increased traffic on Route 210 interfering with the trucking of energetic materials and increasing the risk of an accident. The Marine’s response force at the base uses 210 to reach Washington in the event of a terrorist attack. The WCD will curb traffic growth on the main artery to the base. Anyone who experienced the steep jump in traffic on Route 210 when Route 228 was connected will understand the benefit of reducing growth along the 228 corridor, as the WCD does.
Considering further the transport of energetic materials — a consultant to the JLUS expressed concern over Bryans Road itself becoming a bottleneck. The WCD reduces this likelihood by reducing growth potential in Bryans Road, which is also consistent with the comprehensive plan’s intent to return Bryans Road to a village rather than a major urban center as in the 2006 plan.
The WCD will also reduce the demand for groundwater, another concern of the JLUS. The 2016 comprehensive landuse plan, using projections that did not account for the WCD, was unable to assure sufficient water for the county in 2040. Already the naval base has resorted to expensive reverse osmosis to purify water from the Potomac River, raising its cost of doing business.
The WCD also supports the installation by assisting the revitalization of Indian Head. It is widely acknowledged that the town’s visible economic stress detracts from the base’s stature during a BRAC (base realignment and closure) process. The town’s commercial downturn can be attributed in part to competition from Bryans Road, and even Waldorf. By including lands around the airport in Bryans Road, the WCD will aim attention and investment to Indian Head instead of potentially competing areas. The WCD also conserves the two key tourist attractions needed to fulfill the town’s economic vision to become a “trail destination town.” The WCD maintains the natural setting of the Rail Trail that makes this attraction regionally famous. And the WCD will stabilize Mattawoman Creek, which is now at the “tipping point” for irreversible loss due to overdevelopment of its watershed. Jim Long, Accokeek