Is no growth smart growth?

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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

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