Strike Two for Charles County: Maryland officials find lots wrong with the county’s plan for growth, yet again

Chapter 5 – Last week, a 60-day review of the county’s latest draft Comprehensive Plan ended much like the first 60-day review in 2013. The state agencies charged with reviewing and commenting on the growth plan identified plenty of inadequacies.

Two essentially different Planning Commissions (PC) and the same Planning and Growth Management (PGM) staff, aided by the same high-priced consultant, have again failed to produce an acceptable product after over four years of the most contentious public process in recent history.

Many of the issues identified by Maryland officials were highlighted in the 2,000 unresolved public comments from the October 29, 2013 Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) hearing on the plan.

That plan was sent back to the PC and county staff for a “do over.” The Smarter Growth Alliance for Charles County also sent a summary of relevant issues to the PC and staff before this latest version was sent to the state, but the issues were ignored – again.

The only promising variable in this blueprint for public policy disasters is the new BOCC majority that promised during their election campaigns to forge a new direction for Charles County. However, their request to have the latest Plan delayed until after a joint meeting with the PC was rejected by the PC, thereby denying the BOCC an opportunity to head off the impending embarrassment of having yet another plan judged to be inadequate. Too late now – it already happened.

The 2014 PC majority ignored the common-sense approach of fixing the problems before forwarding the plan to the state for review. They relied on the ill-advised concept that these plans are fluid in nature and can be changed at any time. They fell victim to an apparent urgency, fueled by staff, to hasten a process that was doomed from the start. Potentially, their poor judgement could result in a third review of yet another version of the update to the 2006 plan.

Wasting two “do-overs” on the same plan without getting it right is inexcusable. And ignoring the will of thousands of citizens who are tired of planning and growth policies that favor the development lobby is also unacceptable.

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