Commission review of comprehensive plan continues
Dunkirk as minor town center resurfaces
The Calvert County Planning Commission on Sept. 19 conducted an exhaustive review of the chapters on environment and natural resources, water resources, and government and community facilities of the second draft of the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan update for 2040.
Several county government department heads were in attendance to answer questions as planning and zoning staff walked through 57 pages of copy with the planning board, which green-lighted minor changes.
A few of the nearly 50 public comments on the second draft of the plan received through Aug. 31 and Sept. 10 were also discussed. Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Calvert County Department of Public Works and Calvert County Environmental Commission submitted comments on the plan.
“How many comments about Dunkirk is not a major town center? I mean this is a recurring thing,” planning member Carolyn McHugh said, during the review on environment and natural resources. “People have real heartburn about this.”
One of many with heartburn is Gary Graff of Dunkirk, who sent a Sept. 1 email to planning and zoning titled “No sewer in Dunkirk,” where he demanded that Dunkirk remain a minor town center. Letter after letter demanded the same to include no expansion of town center boundaries, no public sewer or water and no high-density building allowance.
“Whether we call an area a major town center or a minor town center doesn’t stop them from moving there,” Planning and Zoning Director Mark Willis said.
Willis said the county’s process includes looking at the square footage of business space within the seven town centers. Prince Frederick leads all of the town centers in business square footage at 2.26 million and Dunkirk is second at nearly 850,000 square feet.
“I can take three St. Leonards, I can take three Hunting towns and I can take three Owingses and I can fit that business space into Dunkirk with about 50,000 square feet left over,” Willis said.
Willis said while Dunkirk does not have a library or school, it does have privately installed sewer that supports the public.
He said he has been challenged for that statement “like I am secretly planning water and sewer for Dunkirk. My point is it is already happening … developers are planning it. The county’s not planning it.”
Willis said there are two package plants that are water treatment facilities built by developers to serve a commercial base.
He acknowledged citizens’ fears that implementation of public water and sewer will draw growth and the concerns can be addressed in the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance or the Dunkirk Town Center Master Plan by not allowing it.
“I don’t know how you stop what is already started,” Willis said.
Planing Commission Vice Chairman Steve Jones said if the county has no intent of taking water and sewer to Dunkirk then he does not care if they call it a major or minor town center, to make citizens feel better. County long-range planner Jenny Plummer-Welker said the naming can be addressed during the land use discussion next month.
In the chapter’s section discussion on steep slopes and cliffs, planning commission member Robert Reed asked whether a report, from the steering committee formed in 2010 to conduct a study on shoreline erosion and homes, had any groundbreaking revelations in it.
“The revelation is that we finally woke up and [realized] we were doing it to ourselves,” Willis said, of the need to not build homes so close to cliffs.
Willis said the report speaks to soil composition, the need for setbacks, reforestation or re-grassing of those areas. Willis said the solution is more strict zoning along with the comprehensive plan to minimize the county’s need for state and federal emergency resources.
Based on feedback from the Calvert County Environmental Commission, the planning board agreed to wordsmithing and several minor edits to the chapter dedicated to a wide range of issues related to quality of life, sustainability, environmental protection and resource conservation.
SMECO submitted in writing its public utility easement concerns in hopes they would be considered in the rewrite of the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance. The easements are property designations allowing utility companies access to sewer, electrical or cable resources, typically for repair or maintenance.
The utility company’s concerns were raised by McHugh during the review of the chapter on public facilities, and were born out of changes in the county’s zoning ordinance allowing lot minimization, the implementation of the state-mandated stormwater management environmental site design, and county-desired infrastructure, all of which SMECO says has led to impacts to the required easements.
The new stormwater guidelines require developers to minimize impervious areas to provide less of an impact, according to Keith Ulrich, SMECO project coordinator for engineering, in a September 2016 letter to planning and zoning. When stormwater management devices are implemented, roadway sections generally widen. “This routinely extends the overall section beyond the road right of way, and this then overlaps with the” easement, he wrote.
In the letter, SMECO made several recommendations to implement guidelines into the comprehensive plan and placing zoning ordinance restrictions to allow only the use of the easements for the public utility infrastructure, and also requested these concerns be a consideration for the current and future town center master plans and zoning ordinances.
“The actual specifics on setbacks and such would be more appropriate to be addressed in the zoning ordinance,” Plummer-Welker said.
Next month, the draft plan’s chapter on transportation, as well as tables, acronynms, acknowledgments and the appendix, will be discussed. The chapter on land use was deferred until the planning board’s November meeting at Calvert Pines Senior Center.