Is no growth smart growth?
The proposed zoning regulations for the watershed conservation district (WCD) eliminate all commercial/industrial development in the western part of Charles County. Is this smart growth? Maryland Airport provides the opportunity for commercial/industrial growth with associated non-residential tax revenues, which the county sorely needs. But the proposed zoning amendment eliminates all commercial/ industrial development within the WCD. Is the elimination of potential sources of non-residential tax revenue “smart growth”?
Is there not a way to protect the Mattawoman other than these draconian zoning regulations? I’m not a civil engineer nor a hydrologist, but I think that the application of 21st century technology could solve or mitigate the problems of development based pollution. Cannot comprehensive drainage systems that contain and dissipate storm water runoff be developed? Good planning and execution of storm water containment should be a basic tenet for any and all development, either within or outside the WCD. Any and all new roads should contain runoff containment systems. For that matter, existing roadways should be upgraded to manage storm water runoff if we are serious about protecting the Mattawoman watershed. Is this not the intent of the 8 percent impervious surface limitation?
No one wants to see the high density development that is happening under Docket 90 along the Billingsley Road, Piney Church Road, Smallwood Drive corridors in the eastern part of the county. But again, is one house to 20 acres with no more than 8 percent impervious surface the only answer? Cannot developments be built with proper runoff management to eliminate or minimize the impact to the Mattawoman? Requiring developers — and individual home builders — to provide development wide drainage plans that contain or eliminate pollutants would be a first step. Things like installation of storm drains that collect and direct runoff to holding ponds would not only aid in storm water management, but also runoff from over-fertilized lawns.
Individual homeowners should be required to provide drainage plans along with the other required materials to obtain a building permit. Additions to existing properties of driveways, parking areas, sheds, barns, outbuildings, etc. should also require storm water management plans. Examples would be mandatory use of rain barrels to collect rooftop runoff or directing downspouts to subterranean drainage fields. There are lots of alternatives to the 8 percent impervious surface requirement to mitigate runoff impact if one chooses to look.
Zoning for one dwelling per three or five acres would eliminate townhouses and apartments within the WCD, which will meet the intent of low density development. The county commissioners should reject the current proposal and ask the planning commission to reconsider what “smart growth” looks like within the WCD. Instead of giving the answer “no growth,” commissioners should clearly state the goals and let the planning commission explore all alternatives to achieve those goals. Then the results can be presented to the citizens of Charles County for review. Is that not how we achieve the blueprint for “smart growth”?
George Edwards, White Plains