Of­fi­cials are speak­ing pro-de­vel­op­ment in op­pos­ing WCD

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

The Mary­land In­de­pen­dent re­cently re­ported on some of Charles County’s state del­e­ga­tion mem­bers who broke long-es­tab­lished pro­to­col by in­ter­fer­ing with lo­cal land-use poli­cies (“Del­e­ga­tion speaks out against WCD,” March 8). While their lack of self-dis­ci­pline may be sur­pris­ing, their pro-de­vel­oper stance isn’t, given their in­cli­na­tion to pro­mote un­bri­dled growth.

The Water­shed Con­ser­va­tion District (WCD) is in­tended to limit the sprawl de­vel­op­ment that for too long has been in­flict­ing our res­i­dents the du­bi­ous honor of liv­ing in the “worst county in the state” for prop­erty tax rates, use of trail­ers in packed schools, and long­est com­mute times on jammed com­muter routes. Res­i­dents also bear costs as­so­ci­ated with ram­pant growth, such as hav­ing to buy drink­ing wa­ter from out­side the County, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing loss of our cher­ished ru­ral char­ac­ter, and recre­at­ing on trou­bled wa­ters such as Mat­ta­woman Creek and the Port To­bacco River.

Con­trary to Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton’s (D-Charles) as­ser­tions, the WCD ac­tu­ally helps the town of In­dian Head be­cause it re­moves un­nec­es­sar y com­pe­ti­tion for its re­vi­tal­iza­tion (e.g., the un­pop­u­lar tech park in Bryans Road — 1,000 in­dus­trial acres around the pri­vate air­port); it fi­nally guards the Navy base from un­de­sir­able res­i­den­tial en­croach­ment. Also, con­trary to his claim about the health of Mat­ta­woman Creek, an in­ter­a­gency task force of state, fed­eral, and aca­demic ex­perts found that the Mat­ta­woman is at the “tip­ping point” for “ir­re­versible de­te­ri­o­ra­tion” from too much de­vel­op­ment in its water­shed. The task force also stated that the 2016 com­pre­hen­sive plan “may well rep­re­sent the last op­por­tu­nity … to es­tab­lish per­ma­nent pro­tec­tion of the Mat­ta­woman’s re­sources and eco­log­i­cal func­tions.” In es­tab­lish­ing the WCD, the County Com­mis­sion­ers, led by Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D), and joined by Com­mis­sion­ers Ken Robin­son (D) and Amanda Ste­wart (D), took th­ese warn­ings se­ri­ously, and at the same time re­sponded to cit­i­zens’ de­sire to grow re­spon­si­bly in places where in­fra­struc­ture ex­ists and were the state will help fund roads and schools.

Del. Sally Jame­son (D-Charles) is quoted as say­ing the goal has al­ways been to de­velop the county. Her view is con­sis­tent with the pro-growth Cham­ber of Com­merce which she led prior to her elec­tion as del­e­gate. Years ago, the pow­er­ful de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try, whose cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions back Del­e­gate Jame­son, in­serted a “de­vel­op­ment district” big­ger than Bal­ti­more into county plans. The re­sult­ing ram­pant growth has never been the goal of res­i­dents, who dis­like the re­sults that are ap­par­ent all around our county. The WCD ad­dresses this.

When she was a com­mis­sioner, Del. Edith Pat­ter­son (D) cham­pi­oned Bryans Road be­com­ing a new ur­ban town cen­ter — over strong res­i­den­tial op­po­si­tion. Del­e­gate Pat­ter­son is strongly backed by cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from the de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try; she re­sorted to hy­per­bolic char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of the WCD, for ex­am­ple, by call­ing it “ab­surd.” On the con­trary, many other Mary­land coun­ties have much larger ar­eas ex­plic­itly or ef­fec­tively zoned equal to, or less dense than, one unit per 20 acres. Del­e­gate Pat­ter­son’s con­cern for gen­er­a­tional heirs could be han­dled by a pro­vi­sion cre­at­ing lots for chil­dren. The WCD is a main­stream ap­proach for con­serv­ing farms and nat­u­ral re­sources, and for match­ing growth to avail­able drink­ing wa­ter.

David Kan­ter, Hugh­esville The writer is the co-chair of the Sierra Club, South­ern Mary­land Group.

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