Wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict is a wise de­ci­sion

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

As a farm owner who lives within the wa­ter­shed con­ser­va­tion dis­trict, and a strong sup­porter of it, I’m writ­ing to set the record straight on some claims made in a let­ter to the ed­i­tor on June 30.

The let­ter in­cor­rectly states that the Wa­ter­shed Con­ser­va­tion Dis­trict zon­ing would elim­i­nate all com­mer­cial/in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment in the west­ern part of Charles County. In fact, ex­cept for the area around Bryans Road, ar­eas in the WCD pre­vi­ously zoned com­mer­cial will keep that zon­ing.

The let­ter also ar­gues for de­vel­op­ing land around Mary­land Air­port, say­ing con­serv­ing it is not smart growth. But it is smart, for many rea­sons. Mar­ket stud­ies find the area is not com­pet­i­tive, as al­ready demon­strated by the fail­ure of the pro­posed tech park across the street from the air­port. Open­ing the area around the air­port to de­vel­op­ment would re­quire tax­pay­ers to fur­ther sub­si­dize developers with a sewer line. Con­serv­ing the sur­round­ing forests helps ab­sorb air pol­lu­tion from air­craft op­er­a­tions be­fore that pol­lu­tion reaches nearby schools. And the area is of ex­tra­or­di­nary value eco­log­i­cally, drain­ing to the best site in Mary­land for rep­tiles and am­phib­ians, be­ing an Audubon Im­por­tant Bird Area, and ly­ing in a wa­ter­shed rec­og­nized by the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram as a pri­or­ity for pro­tect­ing both spawn­ing fish and wa­ter qual­ity.

Even so, the county com­mis­sion­ers have di­rected staff to in­ves­ti­gate an over­lay zone that

might re-open the land around the air­port for com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment. We can only hope the staff fol­lows the lead of the plan­ning com­mis­sion, which also looked into this and wisely de­cided it is not a good idea.

Fi­nally, while I ap­plaud the let­ter’s con­cern about the im­por­tance of storm wa­ter man­age­ment, there is no way it can fully pro­tect the Mat­ta­woman wa­ter­shed, which is al­ready at the tip­ping point for ir­re­versible degra­da­tion, from the ni­tro­gen pol­lu­tion caused by new de­vel­op­ment. The Mat­ta­woman de­pends on for­est, which soaks up ni­tro­gen be­fore it reaches the creek, to do that. That is just one of the many eco­log­i­cal ser­vices pro­vided by for­est, and there is no way to re­place those ser­vices crit­i­cal to the health of the Mat­ta­woman if the for­est is lost to de­vel­op­ment.

Nancy Smart, La Plata

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