Wa­ter­shed plan re­mains topic of con­tro­versy

Town hall meet­ing sees county staff, of­fi­cials de­fend­ing mea­sure

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MATTHEW KUBISIAK mku­bisiak@somd­news.com

Af­ter the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers’ 3-2 de­ci­sion to ap­prove the cre­ation of the con­tro­ver­sial wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district ear­lier this month, ten­sions re­mained high be­tween

be­tween a hand­ful of sup­port­ers and de­trac­tors at Tues­day evening’s sec­ond quar­ter town hall meet­ing at the Charles County Gov­ern­ment Build­ing.

The meet­ing, held for District 2 Com­mis­sioner De­bra Davis (D), fol­lowed the for­mat of pre­vi­ous town halls; cit­i­zens sub­mit­ted their ques­tions in writ­ing, which were then read aloud by County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Michael Malli­noff and ad­dressed by the heads of staff of var­i­ous county gov­ern­ment de­part­ments.

With the vast ma­jor­ity of sub­mis­sions re­gard­ing the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district,

Plan­ning and Growth Man­age­ment Di­rec­tor Steve Kaii-Ziegler fielded most of the ques­tions.

Cit­i­zens were able to sub­mit mul­ti­ple ques­tions. Gary Han­cock, an In­dian Head res­i­dent who is against the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion district, sub­mit­ted nine.

In one of his sub­mis­sions, Han­cock asked why western Charles County was be­ing “sin­gled out” on ad­di­tional im­per­vi­ous sur­face re­stric­tions when the en­tire county is within the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay wa­ter­shed.

In re­sponse, Kaii-Ziegler high­lighted that the preser­va­tion of the Mat­ta­woman stream val­ley was a “very high” pri­or­ity in the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan adopted last year, with the de­creased res­i­den­tial den­sity zon­ing

of the WCD re­flect­ing that. Hav­ing more im­per­vi­ous sur­face re­stric­tions was a nat­u­ral ad­di­tion to that leg­is­la­tion, he said.

“There was clearly an en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tor that was very con­tro­ver­sial and very well thought out through the en­tire com­pre­hen­sive plan up­date process,” Kaii-Ziegler said. “At the end of the day, the com­mis­sion­ers made an in­formed de­ci­sion.”

Other ques­tions from Han­cock asked about the le­gal author­ity for some of the WCD’s con­tent, in­clud­ing its in­tra-fam­ily trans­fer com­po­nent.

Both Kaii-Ziegler and County At­tor­ney Rhonda Weaver cited Mary­land’s land use ar­ti­cle as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, say­ing that un­der Mary­land law, county com­mis­sion­ers have very broad pow­ers on land use

and zon­ing de­ci­sions.

“It’s en­tirely con­sis­tent,” Kaii-Ziegler said. “The com­mis­sion­ers have the le­gal right to do what they did.”

Pep­pered in be­tween Han­cock’s ques­tions were other com­ments from WCD sup­port­ers, many of whom sim­ply thanked the com­mis­sion­ers for pass­ing the leg­is­la­tion. Jim Long, pres­i­dent of the Mat­ta­woman Wa­ter­shed So­ci­ety, pre­sented 77 signed thank you let­ters for the three com­mis­sion­ers who voted for the district ear­lier this month: Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D), Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Amanda Stewart (D) and Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D). Com­mis­sioner Bobby Rucci (D) and Davis voted against the WCD.

Many WCD sup­port­ers,

how­ever, ques­tioned and crit­i­cized the al­lowance of com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial devel­op­ment around the Mary­land Air­port, one go­ing as far as ask­ing what the point of the WCD is if this devel­op­ment is al­lowed.

“My view is it was a bit of a com­pro­mise,” Kai­iZiegler said, adding the pre­dom­i­nant pur­pose of the WCD was to limit res­i­den­tial growth and that ex­ist­ing com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial zoned land made up only a tiny por­tion of the WCD land­mass. That land was left in place, but with up­dated im­per­vi­ous area lim­i­ta­tions, he said.

A few non-WCD ques­tions were mixed in with the night’s fare, such as one re­gard­ing Mal­lows Bay’s pend­ing des­ig­na­tion as a na­tional marine sanc­tu­ary and where the com­mis­sion­ers weigh in on the dif­fer­ent size op­tions for the sanc­tu­ary.

Robin­son re­sponded by say­ing the com­mis­sion­ers have no say on the fi­nal de­ci­sion for the sanc­tu­ary’s size; he said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will make a rec­om­men­da­tion and NOAA will go from there.

At the town hall’s con­clu­sion, Davis ended by say­ing that she did not feel the evening’s policy ques­tions were an­swered to her stan­dard, later say­ing it might be time to change the town hall for­mat. She ex­plained that she didn’t feel county staff should have to an­swer policy ques­tions when it’s the com­mis­sion­ers who make the poli­cies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.