Straight Talk on Environmental Protection – But not in Charles County’s Draft Comp. Plan

Chapter 6 – Between politicians assuring us that “growth has to go somewhere” and developers claiming that environmental regulations will keep them from poisoning our environment, it is hard to wade through all of the rhetoric to find the truth. While it’s true that growth has to go somewhere, it is not true that Charles County can’t restrict both where it goes and the growth rate. Homes, roads, offices, stores, schools, sewer and water lines, etc. may have to go “somewhere,” but they don’t have to go “everywhere.”

The developers’ insistence that just by following the regulations, whatever they do and wherever they do it will not further degrade our environment ignores reality. Often, the quest for that “balance” we discussed before allows us to accept this totally erroneous fable. The truth is that the flawed regulations were never intended to completely cancel the adverse environmental consequences of development in the wrong places.

Chapter 5 in the second draft of the 2006 Comprehensive Plan update is devoted to our natural resources and how we allegedly plan to preserve and protect them. This is where the county pulls out all the stops, fills the pages with feel-good rhetoric about preservation, and apparently hopes that no one discovers the lack of commitment to actually implement any of the Chapter 5 policies. In this case, the devil really is in the details. Prominently displayed as Action No. 1 is the following statement qualifying the importance of protecting the Mattawoman Creek:

“Propose changes to the Zoning and development regulations regarding standards to increase protection of the Mattawoman Stream Valley provided they do not change the current zoning densities.”

After 24 pages of touting the importance of our environmental resources, Action Item No. 1 says that zoning densities are more important than protecting the Mattawoman. The word “Mattawoman” shows up 13 times in the prior 24 pages of “preserving important places” whitewash, but zoning density rules supreme.

The rest of the so-called “Actions” aren’t any better. One would reasonably expect strong “action” verbs to dominate “action” statements. Instead, the best Charles County can do is to “propose” or “consider” or “enhance” – but only if it doesn’t interfere with zoning densities.

After two chances to get the county’s Comprehensive Plan right, this is embarrassing.

Read more from our ongoing series, “Charles County’s Comprehensive Plan fiasco.”