A great egret stands sentinel in Mattawoman Creek, Charles County, Maryland. Photo © Krista Schlyer/iLCP
Charles County 2016 Proposed Comprehensive Plan Falls Short: Doesn't Adequately Protect Charles County and its Waterways
"While farming can and is expected to continue in the near future,
the long range land use over time can be replaced by rural residential housing
on large lots as the dominant use."
(draft Charles County Comprehensive Plan, p. 3-13)
The process for creating a new Comprehensive Plan for Charles County has been more than five years in the making. During that lengthy process, CBF and a coalition of local partner groups, citizens, and business owners have been stalwart in their defense of the extraordinary values that make Charles County unique: its rural character and quality of life, healthy waterways, and what scientists have declared one of the finest watersheds in the entire Chesapeake Bay region—the Mattawoman Creek watershed. Along the way we stopped a potentially disastrous road project called the Cross County Connector (CCC). , which would have fueled the sprawl that threatens the rural western portion of the county and the communities of Indian Head and Bryans Road.
But other damaging proposals are still under consideration. And despite overwhelming public outcry, the Planning Commission sent a draft plan to the county's elected leaders that would continue failed land use policies that threaten the health of Charles County's rivers and creeks.
At a May 17, 2016 hearing on the draft, the Board of County Commissioners heard loud and clear from dozens of concerned citizens that they want Charles County's natural values protected. Several Commissioners have said that they anticipate making significant changes to the flawed plan currently proposed. And they need to hear from Charles County residents and visitors that these changes must be made to protect water quality, forests, and rural communities.
Three key elements that were strongly supported by the public and that are critical to maintaining Charles County's natural resources and quality of life did not make it into the current Draft Plan. We must ensure that these elements are included in the final Plan:
- Protect Charles County's waterways with stronger zoning for the Mattawoman watershed and other stream valleys.
- Include Nanjemoy in the Priority Preservation Area. Nanjemoy is home to thousands of acres of forestland that contribute to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
- Designate Bryans Road as a village rather than an urban growth center. An urban Bryans Road is reliant on the Cross County Connector, which has been removed from the draft plan.
Several other changes to the current Draft Plan would result in additional protections to Charles County natural resources and advance sustainable growth in the County:
- Eliminate the Employment, Business, and Industrial Park designations applied to land surrounding Maryland Airport and on the forested Indian Head tech park site. This land is remote, forested, and highly sensitive and should be prioritized for protection rather than development.
- Eliminate the over-sized Development District that promotes sprawl development in western Waldorf and detracts from redevelopment efforts that will revitalize existing communities.
- Determine how much growth the county can sustain fiscally and environmentally, and plan accordingly. The plan envisions the county growing by 75,000 new residents and allowing 32,000 new homes to be built by the year 2040—a 51 percent increase in residents and a 59 percent increase in housing units.