Officials are speaking pro-development in opposing WCD
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.