Plan­ners talk air­port and WCD

Look­ing for com­pro­mise on use re­stric­tions

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

On Monday, the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion worked a bit on the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict zon­ing reg­u­la­tions passed down by the county com­mis­sion­ers.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, dis­cus­sion about the area the dis­trict cov­ers be­came a topic for the com­mis­sion­ers.

There were 27 reg­u­la­tions that were changed by the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers from the orig­i­nal plan­ning com­mis­sion com­pre­hen­sive plan that was passed last year. One of the key reg­u­la­tions, Plan­ning Com­mis­sioner Wayne

Ma­goon said, was the area sur­round­ing the air­port and what could be done there.

There was an air­port over­lay zone in­cluded, he said, that al­lowed for some com­mer­cial use in the area. But that since has changed, he said.

“We sup­ported the air­port and its sur­round­ings. To the point we de­cided what could and couldn’t go into those com­mer­cial-in­dus­trial pieces,” Ma­goon said.

Plan­ning Com­mis­sion Chair­woman Angela Sher­ard said the com­mis­sion that was in place did not all agree about the area sur­round­ing the air­port though the over­lay zone did make it into the ini­tial com­pre­hen­sive plan that was passed.

That will be an is­sue the com­mis­sion will need to work through again, she said, be­fore de­ter­min­ing whether or not to put it back into the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict.

“Those is­sues can be ad­dressed,” she said.

The plan­ning com­mis­sion, in its ini­tial pass­ing of the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan, in­cluded an air­port over­lay zone that was in­tended to reg­u­late the com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial uses in the area sur­round­ing the air­port de­spite it be­ing in­cluded in the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict.

How­ever, dur­ing the fi­nal adop­tion of the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan by the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers, the over­lay zone was re­moved al­to­gether from the plan. Ma­goon said the plan­ning com­mis­sion needs to look for a way to in­clude it once again in the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict.

“We had pub­lic tes­ti­mony that said a lot of th­ese folks around the air­port had made in­vest­ments and been pay­ing com­mer­cial prop­erty taxes and in­dus­trial prop­erty taxes all along,” he said. “How do we re­pay them all of those taxes?”

Sher­ard said that may be up to the board of county com­mis­sion­ers to de­ter­mine since the over­lay zone was com­pletely re­moved from the com­pre­hen­sive plan.

It may or may not be passed, Sher­ard said, but if they choose to in­clude an over­lay zone for their wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict rec­om­men­da­tion then it is some­thing that will be voted on.

There are some ar­eas around the air­port that al­ready have com­mer­cial prop­erty on it that will be grand­fa­thered into the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict, but not all of the land has been de­vel­oped.

For un­de­vel­oped land, Steve Kaii-Zei­gler, the county’s di­rec­tor of the Plan­ning and Growth Man­age­ment depart­ment, said that prop­erty will be per­mit­ted to have one dwelling unit of res­i­den­tial prop­erty per 20 acres de­spite be­ing pre­vi­ously des­ig­nated for in­dus­trial use.

“It’s ba­si­cally res­i­den­tially zoned with one home per 20 acres and you could not pro­ceed with an in­dus­trial use,” he said.

Steve Ball, the di­rec­tor of plan­ning for the county, said that any plat that al­ready has de­vel­oped in­dus­trial land would be con­sid­ered “non-con­form­ing” and would have to be grand­fa­thered. The prop­er­ties could be re­de­vel­oped to some ca­pac­ity, he said, but there are lim­its.

The county cur­rently does not know how many pieces of prop­erty would be con­sid­ered non-con­form­ing at this point, Ball said, but that is some­thing the county could re­search for fu­ture work ses­sions.

Plan­ning Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schertler asked if there was a way to have a “WCD eco­nomic zone” through spe­cial ex­cep­tions where the im­per­vi­ous sur­face limit is still in tact but per­mis­si­ble uses are ex­panded.

“As long as we keep the in­tent of the WCD, which is to pro­tect the wa­ter­shed,” she said. “If the com­mis­sion­ers would go for that.”

Kaii-Zei­gler said he does not see why the com­mis­sion­ers could not rec­om­mend the county do that. In that sce­nario, he said, the zone des­ig­na­tions would not be changed, but the im­per­vi­ous sur­face limit would still be tight­ened.

The amount of com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial land in the area is less than 10 per­cent, he said. But if the county kept the zon­ing reg­u­la­tions the same in the area, they would be mak­ing progress to a com­pro­mise.

Schertler’s sug­ges­tion, he said, is the “per­fect dis­cus­sion.”

“That is what you need to con­tem­plate and make a rec­om­men­da­tion to the com­mis­sion­ers,” he said.

Ma­goon said in an in­dus­trial area or a com­mer­cial area, that would be a good com­pro­mise. If peo­ple can “get cre­ative,” he said, the ul­ti­mate goal can be reached.

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