DiMaggio, Democratic candidate for District 4, did not. The discussion was moderated by Greg Farley, new director of sustainability at Washington College, and addressed questions submitted by the audience, as well as concerns relating to the health of the Bay and Chesapeake watershed.
In regards to the Comprehensive Plan, which is scheduled to be reviewed during the next term, incumbent District 1 Commissioner Jack Wilson, a Republican, noted people aren’t pounding down the doors to put larger businesses in Queen Anne’s. Deborah Krueger, Democrat for District 4, and Ben Tilghman, Democrat for District 2, said retrofitting existing vacant buildings and commercial spaces and in-filling should be considered first before moving growth away from these areas.
“Paving over farmland is not the way to go,” said Elaine Harrison, Democrat for AtLarge. Considering the health of the Bay and its vitalness to the seafood industry is also a top concern, said Harrison, a Kent Island resident.
Balancing economic growth and environment is also a concern for the county. With the Comprehensive Plan, we have strict environmental guidelines that must be adhered to and well trained staff that can and do help adhere to these guidelines, said former Commissioner Philip Dumenil, Republican for District 3.
Making the most use of resources available is an area of priority for Jim Coulter, Democrat for District 3, he said. Coulter noted a farm of just 100 acres that is currently being used for productive organic farming. He said he would like to see fewer WaWas and recruit businesses that could better fit the county.
The candidates unanimously agreed to continue supporting the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, encouraging states north to participate and be held accountable for their contributions to pollution and run-off.
There is a strength in numbers, said Krueger. With the Susquehanna River a principal contributor to pollution, there is a need to put the arm on Pennsylvania, said incumbent District 2 Commissioner Steve Wilson, Republican.
The Watershed Implementation Plan was another topic Farley posed to the candidates. The candidates were favor of seeing farmers receive credits for placing solar arrays on their land, with only Tilghman dissenting.
WIP credits should be given to farms for nitrogen and phosphorus reduction in the Bay, said Jack Wilson, but the state has set no established goal for the WIP and needs to provide those guidelines. He added the county has been nationally recognized for its efforts with the Kent Island Sewer Project and the amount of nitrogen that kept out of the Bay with the new sewer service.
Incumbent At-Large Commissioner Jim Moran said the county has already put in place provisions that larger solar arrays be planned within two miles of the grid to get power to the grid most effectively. There is also a 2,000-acre cap set within the county guidelines for solar arrays, and structures placed on farms are bonded and so would come down after 25 years, he said.
The group also took on the topic of plastic reduction strategies and were split on legislative enforcement and fines to control the use of items such as plastic bags and straws versus personal accountability and business choice over what product to use.
Harrison said she believes starting within local government agencies, switching to biodegradable products. She supports the Kent Island Beach Cleanups organization and offered what she proposed as an innovative idea to place mesh bags at storm drains. “It is not a time to regulate, but educate,” she said.
Chris Corchiarino, Republican for District 4, advocated businesses making those decisions on their own. He said he wants to see small businesses grow and thrive in the county, not be hindered by excess regulations.
Dumenil said there is science that can be used to come up with more biodegradable solutions, no more plastic six-pack rings, grocery bags stuck waving in trees. He would like to see these issues addressed at a state and federal level.
While other candidates said they would be prepared to hear both sides of the argument and make a decision best suited to businesses and the environment, Moran was adamant that he would “just outlaw (the use of plastics, straws, etc) it.”
The discussion circled back to the Comprehensive Plan looking at plans for open and preserved spaces, with the candidates supporting preservation of the county’s rural existence and also considering rising sea levels during the next Comprehensive Plan review.
The Comprehensive Plan is a transparent process with a diverse group of people giving input, said Jack Wilson. With the population of the county up only 1,800 people in eight years, the plan has done a good job controlling growth, he said.
It is a document that should a rise from the public, said Tilghman, a great opportunity to get economic growth going in the north end of the county with the 301 bypass, but only if wanted by the population. He noted water and sewer is not in place there yet.
Traffic is an often avoided subject, said Moran, but it must be addressed, the same with global warming. The plan needs to be well thought out by those with experience, he added.
“We can encourage growth in not focusing on just one area,” said Corchiarino.
Steve Wilson said the plan “arises from people not from us, we want to hear opinions from within the community.”
Dumenil said the plan faces a litany of changes but has maintained a vision of quintessential rural community with economic growth. How much change is wanted by northern end of county should ultimately be considered when addressing that area of the county, he said. Overall, the plan should be easier and simpler to read, with versions made available to the public that are easier to understand, he added.
A recording of the forum is available on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s website, www.cbf.org.