Maryland Independent - - Com­mu­nity Fo­rum - Twit­ter: @PaulIndyNews

ing the con­ser­vancy’s plans to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter, the land’s prox­im­ity to two schools and the land’s role in help­ing to pro­tect the Mat­ta­woman Creek wa­ter­shed and the county’s air qual­ity.

Two peo­ple spoke out against grant­ing the ease­ment, ar­gu­ing that it would sti­fle eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in western Charles County and de­ter po­ten­tial in­vestors from buy­ing and ex­pand­ing the nearby Mary­land Air­port, which abuts the south­ern edge of the com­bined parcels that make up the ease­ment.

Dur­ing the process of craft­ing the draft ease­ment leg­is­la­tion, peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing both sides of the ar­gu­ment have ac­cused Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Pe­ter F. Mur­phy (D) of im­pro­pri­ety stem­ming from his re­la­tion­ship with the conser vancy.

Mur­phy served a one-year term on the con­ser­vancy’s board from Oc­to­ber 1996 to Oc­to­ber 1997.

Dur­ing a work ses­sion ear­lier in the af­ter­noon to dis­cuss the par­tic­u­lars of the ease­ment, Mur­phy took the un­usual step of ad­dress­ing one of the al­le­ga­tions, that his re-elec­tion cam­paign re­ceived con­tri­bu­tions from the con­ser­vancy.

“I want to make it very clear that the Con­ser­vancy for Charles County ... [is] pro­hib­ited from mak­ing any con­tri­bu­tion to any in­di­vid­u­als, and I would say that I cer­tainly have never re­ceived any con­tri­bu­tion to my cam­paign, [and] I never re­ceived any fi­nan­cial sup­port or money from the con­ser­vancy.”

Mur­phy also de­nied be­ing a “found­ing mem­ber” of the con­ser­vancy, a claim that ap­peared in an on­line bi­o­graph­i­cal sum­mary of Mur­phy’s ca­reer that Mur­phy said was a mis­take in word­ing.

“And if we’re go­ing to be fac­tual, I have four grand­chil­dren, I don’t have two grand­chil­dren,” Mur­phy added, point­ing out an­other er­ror in the bio.

Nev­er­the­less, dur­ing the evening’s pub­lic hear­ing sev­eral peo­ple brought up ac­cu­sa­tions against Mur­phy, prompt­ing Mur­phy at one point to in­ter­rupt Ken Hast­ings of the Ma­son Springs Con­ser­vancy as he at­tempted to call for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions made to the county com­mis­sion­ers.

“Can we not go there, please?” Mur­phy asked. “Just stay on the is­sue, please.”

Two of the speak­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer county com­mis­sioner and Demo­cratic can­di­date for com­mis­sion­ers’ pres­i­dent Reuben B. Collins II, urged the com­mis­sion­ers to al­low the in­com­ing board of com­mis­sion­ers to make the de­ci­sion on whether to grant the ease­ment to the con­ser­vancy.

The new board will be sworn in on the evening of Tues­day, Dec. 4.

The com­mis­sion­ers will con­tinue to ac­cept pub­lic com­ments on the pro­posed ease­ment un­til close of busi­ness Mon­day, Oct. 29.

The com­mis­sion­ers voted in fa­vor of leg­is­la­tion to ban plas­tic straws and stir­rers in Charles County res­tau­rants, which was amended to bring the def­i­ni­tion of “com­postable” in line with state law in re­sponse to an is­sue that was pointed out dur­ing last week’s pub­lic hear­ing.

Com­mis­sioner Bobby Rucci (D), a restau­ra­teur, re­cused him­self from the vote. Com­mis­sioner De­bra Davis (D) voted against the bill, ar­gu­ing that the com­mis­sion­ers had “missed a great op­por­tu­nity” to in­vite stake­hold­ers to join the com­mis­sion­ers in craft­ing the leg­is­la­tion.

At the sug­ges­tion of Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D), the fi­nal leg­is­la­tion low­ers the max­i­mum penalty to $150 and de­lays en­force­ment of penal­ties un­til Jan. 1, 2021, a year after the leg­is­la­tion goes into ef­fect.

Fol­low­ing pub­lic hear­ings, the com­mis­sion­ers also ap­proved an amend­ment to the county’s Ad­e­quate Pub­lic Fa­cil­i­ties man­ual to in­crease the num­ber of bulk school al­lo­ca­tions that are granted to mi­nor sub­di­vi­sions by one al­lo­ca­tion per sub­di­vi­sion.

The al­lo­ca­tion is de­signed to help the own­ers of fam­ily sub­di­vi­sions that have a max­i­mum of seven lots that have to com­pete against ma­jor sub­di­vi­sions for school al­lo­ca­tions.

County plan­ning di­rec­tor Ja­son Groth ex­plained that the de­ci­sion would al­low sev­eral small sub­di­vi­sions that had been “lan­guish­ing” on the project ap­proval list for sev­eral years to fi­nally pro­ceed.

The com­mis­sion­ers also voted to ap­prove a mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the county’s core em­ploy­ment res­i­den­tial zone that would elim­i­nate the re­quire­ment that all build­ings in the zone be at least two sto­ries tall and also shorten the min­i­mum rear yard di­men­sions in the zone from 50 to 20 feet.

Bryans Road busi­ness­man Amir Shi­razi had sought the mod­i­fi­ca­tion to en­able him to move ahead with plans to con­struct a fast-food restau­rant and a re­tail busi­ness on ad­join­ing parcels along Route 210.

County plan­ning staff had rec­om­mended that the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion ap­prove the changes as be­ing more con­sis­tent with the vil­lage-scale mas­ter plan that it ap­proved for Bryans Road last De­cem­ber, but a ma­jor­ity of the plan­ning com­mis­sion rec­om­mended to the county com­mis­sion­ers that the pro­posal be de­clined.

Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) cast the sole vote against the zon­ing change.

Robin­son told the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent that he did not be­lieve the pro­posal was con­sis­tent with the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan.

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