Planners talk airport and WCD
Looking for compromise on use restrictions
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.