Town council seeks to change critical area allocation
Also, citizen calls for review of new alcohol ordinance at wharf
To help bolster the town’s master development plan, the Leonardtown Council has sent a letter requesting the transference of critical area growth allocation from the St. Mary’s County commissioners to the town council.
Transferring the growth allocation reserve would effectively give the council more control over development in critical waterfront areas by allowing site plans to be approved by the town’s planning and zoning council, rather than the St. Mary’s planning commission.
St. Mary’s County has had about 1,800 acres of critical land area in its allocation inventory for 30 years, and has developed 10 percent of those areas, according to Laschelle McKay, Leonardtown administrator.
Local governments are granted a growth allocation consisting of 5 percent of that jurisdiction’s resource conservation area lands. Seeking to acquire 200 acres from the county’s allocation re- serve, the council would “have more leverage” in changing the designation of the parcels from resource conservation areas to either limited development area or intensely developed area, allowing for more densely developed area, McKay said.
“Not knowing if the growth allocation is gonna be available to us for long range master planning is gonna be impossible,” McKay said. “If we have to rely on the next board of county commissioners to see Leonardtown as a priority, it’s gonna be hard to do our master plan.”
The county would “receive the same tax benefit” it would if it retained control over the 200 acres, McKay said.
In other action, the council heard from Charles Ray Reid IV, a Valley Lee resident, who addressed the members about an amendment passed in May to an ordinance governing alcohol consumption, which effectively prohibits drinking on public property within the town, including municipal parks, without a permit.
“I just want the wharf to go back to the way it was prior to this ordinance,” Reid said. “The wharf is specifically what is an issue to me,” not other municipal parks, he added.
The amendment was passed, without a public hearing, to respond to the concern of the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office over “a few disturbances” involving alcohol at the wharf, Leonardtown Mayor Dan- iel Burris said in an interview. Since the amendment was passed, there have been no incidents, he added.
“We can’t judge the many by the very, very, very few,” Reid said.
The permitting process was put in place to create a regulatory process for people who want to hold events at the wharf, Hayden Hammett, a town commissioner, said. “It was to put the town in the driver’s seat of what happens down there.”
Individuals who wish to drink on the wharf must apply for a free permit at the Leonardtown government building. Reid condemned the “duplicative” nature of the ordinance, given that state laws already exist prohibiting drunk and disorderly behavior in public, and driving under the influence.
“I cannot smoke cigarettes at the park at the wharf,” Reid said. “That’s good, because I would be impacting the health and well-being of the children and other various people who come to enjoy the park. But if I want to drink a Budweiser, I don’t see why I’m hurting anyone.”
Although Hammett offered to review the ordinance, Burris did not anticipate a change to it, but did say the council would “take it under advisement.”
The council also discussed positive feedback received from Mahan Rykiel, a consultant hired to help the town develop its downtown plan, during the group’s visit to Leonardtown last week. A report detailing the firm’s findings is expected in the next six to eight weeks.