Indian Head town council discusses WCD position
Wants to hear both sides of the argument
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.