In­dian Head town coun­cil dis­cusses WCD po­si­tion

Wants to hear both sides of the ar­gu­ment

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­

On March 29, the In­dian Head Town Coun­cil dis­cussed many sig­nif­i­cant top­ics dur­ing its work ses­sion that have be­come a top pri­or­ity in Charles County, specif­i­cally dis­cussing its stance about the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict, a con­tro­ver­sial part of the county’s re­cently passed com­pre­hen­sive plan.

In re­cent months, the topic has gained a lot of pub­lic at­ten­tion, and af­ter the ev­ery coun­cil mem­ber at­tended the re­cent WCD op­po­si­tion meet­ing held at the Vil­lage Green Pavil­ion on March 16, they felt it was im­por­tant to dis­cuss the mat­ter and de­ter­mine the town’s of­fi­cial po­si­tion. The WCD is cur­rently be­ing ex­am­ined by the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. The pro­posed WCD is part of the county’s newly passed com­pre­hen­sive plan and sug­gests cer­tain devel­op­ment re­stric­tions on prop­erty own­ers in a des­ig­nated zone in western Charles County — mainly near the Mat­ta­woman Creek wa­ter­shed area — re­stric­tions that many in op­po­si­tion are con­cerned about. Those who are in fa­vor of the WCD say the move is needed to pro­tect the

Mat­ta­woman Creek wa­ter­shed from “sprawl­ing” devel­op­ment.

Coun­cil­man Cur­tis Smith said he would like to have all the facts be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion about the town’s po­si­tion, and the per­cep­tion at the WCD op­po­si­tion meet­ing is that the town agreed with the op­po­si­tion but it has no stance on the mat­ter as of yet.

“Per­son­ally, I don’t know that we have enough in­for­ma­tion to form an opin­ion be­cause it doesn’t look like the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion has come out with a fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tion as of yet,” Smith said.

Ja­son Henry Sr., the leader of the op­po­si­tion move­ment, said he is ad­vo­cat­ing in the best in­ter­est of the com­mon cit­i­zens in Charles County.

“In the fu­ture when we have events like that we need to make it avail­able to the other side,” Smith said. “We should al­low both sides to make their cases known. In the event we have our own per­sonal opin­ion we need to ad­vo­cate those opin­ions in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity not us­ing our po­si­tion on the coun­cil be­cause it gives the per­cep­tion that it’s what the town is ad­vo­cat­ing ... The ac­tual fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions and whether they will do a fea­si­bil­ity study on the eco­nomic im­pact, the county plan­ning com­mis­sion has not made those fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tions.”

Vice-Mayor Ron Si­toula agreed.

“The or­ga­niz­ers did a great job of pre­sent­ing their ar­gu­ment but I think we all stood in our own in­di­vid­ual ca­pac­ity and made our opin­ions known. I think it would also be a good idea for the town to hear both sides of the ar­gu­ment al­though it might be pre­ma­ture at this time for me to ex­press my opin­ion. If the pro-WCD would like to hold a hear­ing I think we should work on that op­por­tu­nity to hear form both sides of the coin to make an in­formed de­ci­sion. Un­til then, I with­hold my opin­ion about whether I sup­port or op­pose it,” Si­toula said.

Mayor Bran­don Paulin spoke at the WCD op­po­si­tion meet­ing and stated again dur­ing the work ses­sion that he is also op­posed to the WCD.

“I am op­posed to the WCD just for the mere fact that it down­zones close to 50 per­cent of the town’s trade area, and when you down­zone that area it’s go­ing to be hard to pitch to busi­nesses and build­ing own­ers, in terms of com­mer­cial re­vi­tal­iza­tion, when there is no growth of over 50 per­cent of our trade area,” Paulin said. “I spec­ify trade area be­cause ob­vi­ously this doesn’t af­fect the town di­rectly, but in­di­rectly it cer­tainly af­fects po­ten­tial com­mer­cial re­vi­tal­iza­tion in the town, which wor­ries me. When the ULI Study rec­om­mended that we in­crease res­i­den­tial ca­pac­ity in and around town it just seems con­tra­dic­tory.”

Paulin and Smith sug­gested draft­ing a let­ter to the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion with their ques­tions about the WCD and ex­press­ing ar­eas of con­cern as the plan­ning com­mis­sion de­vel­ops its fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions.

Henry sat in on the work ses­sion to hear the coun­cil’s per­spec­tive on the mat­ter. He said it is a demo­cratic process to hear both sides of the ar­gu­ment and then make an in­formed de­ci­sion.

“I wish that the [Charles County] com­mis­sion­ers had done the same thing and had a com­plete full demo­cratic process, not the sham that is be­ing un­cov­ered. Right now the pro­posed plans are at the plan­ning com­mis­sion stage and they are not tak­ing any more comments,” Henry said.

When asked about fac­tors that the coun­cil should con­sider as it de­ter­mines its po­si­tion on the WCD, Henry said, “look at all the or­ga­ni­za­tions that are against this. There’s no or­ga­ni­za­tion that’s for this ex­cept for the en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions but they have no data. Their in­for­ma­tion is in re­gards to the Mat­ta­woman Creek which has so many reg­u­la­tions put in place that are work­ing for the creek and the creek is even im­prov­ing. We all want to pro­tect the water but this ex­treme mea­sure that they don’t want any­thing to take place, new build­ings or any­thing, is a con­cern.”

Henry said he is vested be­cause he is try­ing to pro­tect his fam­ily’s 152year legacy.

The con­sen­sus of the coun­cil was to hold back on mak­ing any for­mal state­ments about the WCD pend­ing the out­come of a pub­lic fo­rum to hear from those in fa­vor.

Henry said he has no prob­lem with the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion and be­lieves it’s a good idea to hold a fo­rum for those who are in fa­vor of the WCD.

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