County officials take exception with newspaper ads
Offer rebuttal to Keep Calvert Country claims
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. co.cal.md.us/CivicAlerts. aspx?AID=1244.