Chapter 15 – If you watched the August 10th presentation by Charles County’s planning staff to the Planning Commission, you probably noticed two claims about the projected growth rate for our county:
- The county has grown by about 1.3% per year over the past decade.
- 1.3% is a “manageable” growth rate.
A review of the draft comprehensive plan and the presentation reveals the following relevant facts, unmentioned in the staff presentation:
- Charles County is predicted to be the fourth fastest growing county in Maryland between 2010 and 2040 with 75,000 new residents.
- Since the 2006 Comp. Plan, the stated objective has always been to “accommodate population growth rates at 1.7% but less than 2.0 %.”
- The average growth rate between 2000 and 2010 was 1.97% – almost 2%.
- The last decade included the recession starting in 2007, so 1.3% may not be typical for non-recession decades.
So, what does “manageable” really mean? Given the traffic congestion, land conversion rates, escalating taxes, and proliferation of portable classrooms in our schools over the past decade, is “manageable” the first term that comes to your mind? Of course not!
Expected shortfalls in drinking water and sewer capacities loom as major reasons to take a conservative approach to growth. However, true risk-takers, relying on bottomless taxpayer pockets to cover their bets if they are wrong, espouse the philosophy documented in section 4.4 of the Plan:
“It should be pointed out that, should population growth in Charles County occur more slowly than is projected in this Comprehensive Plan, the resultant water demand and wastewater discharge would be lower than projected in Tables 4-4 and 4-6, and discussed in other sections in this chapter.”
Really? And suppose the growth rates are greater than projected? Doesn’t that mean we will have water and sewer crises even sooner than projected? Once you admit you don’t have a clue about the outcome, you have to at least accept the possibility of outcomes greater than as well as less than your projection. In this case, the 1.3% is more of a feel-good guess than a true projection.
The staff response to this water and sewer issue when raised by the State was that the County would update our Water and Sewer Plan to cover it. Doesn’t that make you feel better?
Read more from our ongoing series, “Charles County’s Comprehensive Plan fiasco.”