County of­fi­cials take ex­cep­tion with news­pa­per ads

Of­fer re­but­tal to Keep Calvert Coun­try claims

The Calvert Recorder - - Business - By TAMARA WARD tward@somd­ Twit­ter: @CalRecTAMARA

Calvert County takes ex­cep­tion with re­cent ads in The Calvert Recorder from ad­vo­cacy group Keep Calvert Coun­try chal­leng­ing the com­pre­hen­sive plan process and lo­cal elected of­fi­cials.

“There have been some full-page ads that are re­ally ques­tion­able in mul­ti­ple ways,” Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Evan Slaugh­en­houpt (R) said at the Oct. 23 com­mis­sion­ers’ meeting. “Please, do not be mis­led by in­di­vid­u­als that are pur­posely, and will­fully, try­ing to mis­lead the vot­ers.”

KCC placed four ads in the news­pa­per be­tween Oct. 5 and 24. Three of the ads as­sert that within the com­pre­hen­sive plan up­date draft the county is not prop­erly ad­dress­ing traf­fic data and failed to set goals for land preser­va­tion, that the com­mis­sion­ers have “hi­jacked” and are rush­ing the plan. A fourth ad is a com­mis­sioner can­di­date score­card for the up­com­ing election.

Slaugh­en­houpt stressed the draft plan has not been rushed and does not cre­ate un­wanted growth, that all voices will be heard and that the board did not roll over to de­vel­op­ers.

He said one of the ads is be­ing re­viewed by State Board of Elec­tions “due to the le­gal­ity of that ad” by an un­reg­is­tered group, re­fer­ring to KCC’s mem­ber­ship as for­mer “failed” and “dis­grun­tled” county em­ploy­ees.

Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions Deputy Direc­tor Mark Vol­land and Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Zon­ing staff met with the Recorder on Oct. 25 to pro­vide con­text around the in­for­ma­tion pre­sented in the ads and ex­pand on the com­mis­sioner’s re­marks.

In its Oct. 5 ad, KCC states the draft plan ig­nores a traf­fic pro­jec­tion of 83,500 trips per day through Prince Fred­er­ick within 12 years.

Plan­ning and Zon­ing Direc­tor Mark Wil­lis said those num­bers were pro­vided in 2016 by Mary­land’s State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion, not the county.

“By 2017, those num­bers had pretty dra­mat­i­cally de­creased and just a cou­ple of weeks ago the new num­bers came out and the new range was be­tween 46,300 to 57,500 and the time that was ac­counted for was pushed out to 2040,” Wil­lis said, not­ing as of now SHA re­ports 43,530 trips per day.

“KCC from the very be­gin­ning has been fact based. We’ve been us­ing state and lo­cal sources. KCC does its own re­search. We pub­lish, we cite our sources at https:// www.keep­calvert­coun­try. com,” KCC’s Greg Bowen said in a re­but­tal to the county’s re­but­tal. “Our sources are sound.”

Bowen, a for­mer Calvert plan­ning and zon­ing direc­tor, said the plan in­di­cates there is no growth in traf­fic. Bowen refers to Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) cit­ing traf­fic through Prince Fred­er­ick along Route 2/4 at 67,250 trips by 2035, which was in last year’s con­sol­i­dated trans­porta­tion plan.

SHA spokesper­son Char­lie Gis­chlar pro­vided the Recorder with the most cur­rent travel vol­ume forecast listed in the con­sol­i­dated trans­porta­tion plan for Calvert.

Within Prince Fred­er­ick, the an­nual av­er­age daily traf­fic, or ve­hi­cles per day, is cur­rently 46,800 and is pro­jected for 57,500 for 2040. Gis­chlar said un­less there is a spe­cial re­quest for up­dated fore­casts (i.e., a new project in this area), SHA will re­view the fore­casts dur­ing the yearly plan cy­cle. Fu­ture years gen­er­ally fol­low five-year in­cre­ments.

Within the same ad is a state­ment that the draft plan al­lows for Prince Fred­er­ick Town Cen­ter to in­crease by 83 per­cent.

“It’s a phased process,” long-range plan­ner Jenny Plum­mer-Welker said, not­ing the ini­tial phase as dic­tated by the cur­rent draft al­lows for a 23 per­cent in­crease, but there is po­ten­tial for an 83 per­cent in­crease over 20 years.

Wil­lis said they would like to adopt the 23 per­cent in­crease now and that a trans­porta­tion up­date, zon­ing or­di­nance up­date and up­dated Prince Fred­er­ick Town Cen­ter Mas­ter Plan must be com­pleted be­fore they could move to phase 2 for the rest.

“At any one of those points a de­ci­sion could be made that maybe this is not a good idea and it doesn’t go for­ward,” Vol­land added. “This is not some­thing writ­ten in stone.”

KCC also states no ex­pan­sion should be in­cluded in the plan un­til a traf­fic study is con­ducted.

“You got to have the vi­sion in or­der to fig­ure out what the trans­porta­tion plan is look­ing at and what the im­pact of the vi­sion is,” Plum­mer-Welker said. “We’re not go­ing to adopt a new zon­ing map un­til” after the trans­porta­tion plan.

But Bowen claims the county is propos­ing zon­ing changes in the plan “which don’t give the next board of county com­mis­sion­ers op­tions in any other zon­ing cat­e­gory be­sides” what is in the plan.

The county took ex­cep- tion with an Oct. 12 ad in which KCC stated the draft in­cludes no rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove ef­forts to reach the goal of pre­serv­ing 40,000 acres of farm and for­est land.

Plum­mer-Welker said there is a goal within the draft to “con­tinue to sup­port the goal of per­ma­nently pre­serv­ing a min­i­mum of 40,000 acres of prime farm and forest­land through county, state, and fed­eral land preser­va­tion pro­grams and land trusts” in chap­ter 3 on land use, page 3-23, and two ad­di­tional pages for strate­gies to reach that goal.

Bowen said the goal is just a con­tin­u­a­tion of what is in the 2010 plan and there is noth­ing to ad­dress im­prov­ing upon it.

With re­gard to a state­ment that the county’s 2013 mora­to­rium on new agri­cul­tural preser­va­tion dis­tricts has slowed preser­va­tion ef­forts, the trio ac­knowl­edged a con­scious ef­fort be­tween the county and the Agri­cul­tural Preser­va­tion Ad­vi­sory Board to slow down the creation of APDs to avoid flood­ing the mar­ket with trans­fer­able de­vel­op­ment rights, which were al­ready in sur­plus. How­ever, they agreed the eco­nomic down­turn that be­gan in 2007, not the mora­to­rium, im­pacted the sale of TDRs.

“The [Pur­chase and Re­tire­ment] fund was in­tended to be used for down economies to get the mar­ket go­ing for TDRs, when the hous­ing in­dus­try was down. How­ever, four years since 2010, the county did not buy any TDRs, zero, dur­ing a time when the pro­gram was in the great­est need for the PAR fund pro­gram to be uti­lized,” Bowen said.

The Recorder was un­able to reach the ad­vi­sory board or county government li­ai­son Ron­ald Mar­ney by press dead­line.

In an Oct. 17 ad ti­tled “County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Top 10 Fail­ures,” KCC listed as No. 8 that the com­mis­sion­ers hi­jacked the com­pre­hen­sive plan process from the Calvert County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion by hir­ing a con­sul­tant of their choice from Wal­dorf, re­fer­ring to Jackie Se­neschal, Charles County’s plan­ning direc­tor from 1985 to 1994, dur­ing its pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion.

“It’s sim­ply not true,” said Wil­lis, who was in the pub­lic works depart­ment at the time, but was on the se­lec­tion and re­view panel tasked with mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to hire the con­sul­tant.

Plum­mer-Welker noted for­mer Plan­ning Com­mis­sion chair­man Mau­rice Lusby and cur­rent mem­ber Robert Reed were also on the com­mit­tee. Nei­ther Plum­mer-Welker nor Wil­lis could re­call if the con­sul­tant se­lec­tion was unan­i­mous.

The Recorder was un­able to reach Lusby by press dead­line. Reed said he would not say the plan was “hi­jacked,” sug­gest­ing the term as sen­sa­tion­al­ism, but felt he had no other re­course but to se­lect Se­neschal’s con­sult­ing firm Par­sons Brinck­er­hoff “be­cause the county wanted to pur­chase a com­pany.”

“Ul­ti­mately, it was the de­ci­sion of the com­mis­sion­ers,” Reed said in in­ter­view.

The county claims it ad­dressed the afore­men­tioned con­cerns and more in a se­ries of fre­quently asked ques­tions. In a sep­a­rate fact sheet, the county ad­dresses other is­sues in the com­mis­sion­ers’ top 10 fail­ures ad. The FAQs and fact sheet ad­dress­ing those is­sues and more can be found at http://www. aspx?AID=1244.

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