Chapter 14 – Someday, the history book that is written about funny business in Charles County will record that round one of the current comprehensive plan update process was mostly wasted on attempts to circumvent Maryland’s septic bill requirements. The Tiers Map produced by Charles County’s development lobby, formerly known as BGI, was a blatant attempt to prevent any improvements in how our county plans for growth.
Ultimately, the State flexed its muscle, local residents came out in force, and the BGI Tiers Map was defeated. But in their haste to get another draft comprehensive plan to Maryland officials, county staff failed to adopt many of the State’s smart growth policies.
The recent attempt by county staff to put a positive spin on the latest State comments fails the sniff test. Slide 14 in their presentation to the Planning Commission led off with this statement: “Many of the State Agency comments were positive and supportive of the current plan.”
A review of the State comments tells a different story. The county staff’s spreadsheet of comments has 145 entries and shows that county staff disagrees with 45 of the comments. And the responses to the State comments by county staff seem more antagonistic than necessary.
For example, Table 3-2 gives the zoning density of the new Watershed Conservation district as 1:10 or .1 house per acre, but the average density is given as .05, the equivalent of 1:20 zoning. While it is generally accepted that Tier IV areas could have a lower average build-out density due to the exclusion of major developments on septic, Maryland officials specifically asked about the process for arriving at the new average density and why the same process wasn’t used for other Tier IV areas with 1:3 density. The county staff’s response was that they disagree with the question (how do you disagree with a question?), and fails to clarify the disparities.
Policy statement 5.1 confirms an intent to protect the Mattawoman Stream Valley provided it does not involve changing zoning densities. The State challenged this obvious commitment to sacrificing Mattawoman Creek on the altar of business as usual. County staff responded that they disagree with this conclusion even though the text supports no other conclusion.
By now, local residents and the State of Maryland have learned that it’s probably best not to put too much stock in the county’s plans for protecting the Mattawoman Creek.
Read more from our ongoing series, “Charles County’s Comprehensive Plan fiasco.”