Charles County
Comprehensive Plan

An egret stands sentinal in Mattawoman Creek. Photo copyright Krista Schlyer/iLCPA great egret stands sentinel in Mattawoman Creek, Charles County, Maryland. Photo © Krista Schlyer/iLCP

Charles County Resurrects Ill-Advised,
Unsustainable Comprehensive Plan

"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)

Three years ago CBF and a coalition of partner groups, citizens, and business owners stopped a potentially disastrous road project in Charles County called the Cross County Connector (CCC). The victory spurred hope that out-dated land-use policies of the past were just that and that the county would chart a new, more prosperous and environmentally sustainable course through the revision of its comprehensive plan for future growth.

Instead, special interests put forth a proposal that would allow sprawling growth and resurrect the Cross County Connector—the very same road that the state and the Army Corps of Engineers refused to permit. Shockingly, a slim majority of the County's Planning Commission voted to send this plan to the County Commissioners—against the recommendations of its own professional planning staff and contrary to several options developed by citizens, businesses and many others during an extensive public input process.

Thousands of Charles County citizens and two of the five County Commissioners spoke out against this plan at a hearing last fall. In response, a county-appointed task force re-examined the county's "tier map"—a major driver of the county's plan for unchecked growth—and recommended sweeping changes. Thanks to the voices of thousands of county residents, local and regional organizations, and the task force, the remaining County Commissioners relented, voting to adopt a tier map largely consistent with public input and staff recommendations

But the draft comprehensive plan that could decimate Charles' County's farms, forests, and waterways lives on. So does the Cross County Connector, as the County commissioners are considering spending one million dollars on a study to revive the roadway proposal.

Draft Plan Flies in the Face of Responsible Land Use

The draft plan currently before the Commissioners does not reflect the new tier map, the work of the county-appointed task force, county planning staff recommendations or the wishes of thousands of county citizens. Instead, the plan would:

  • Dramatically increase hard, polluting surfaces in sensitive watersheds like Mattawoman Creek
  • Support ill-conceived and damaging road projects like the Cross County Connector
  • Allow the development of major new subdivisions on farms and forests across the county.

The draft plan sums it up:

"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)

There's room for everyone - Cartoon by Jim Hunt


The plan would allow for the construction of up to 52,000 new houses, leaving little room for a viable future for farming in Charles County. This number could include as many as 349 major subdivisions on septic systems, generating an additional 215,000 pounds of nitrogen per year to the county's waterways. By comparison, the La Plata wastewater treatment plant in lower Charles County is limited to a maximum nitrogen discharge of 18,273 pounds of nitrogen per year.

Plan Threatens Mattawoman Creek

The additional polluted runoff that would come from such a massive and sprawling development proposal threatens the future of local natural gems like Mattawoman Creek. The Mattawoman is considered one of the most productive fish nursery areas in the Chesapeake and it brings in millions of dollars in economic development from nationally-known bass fishing tournaments. But state biologists say the creek's upstream areas are teetering on the verge of ecological collapse from existing development, and the wide-scale planned additional growth would likely push the vital Mattawoman into dramatic decline. The draft plan would generate twice as much impervious surface when compared to moderate alternatives developed with public input, significantly increasing polluted runoff into waterways.

Protect Charles County streams, forests, farms and way of life. Take action now.

RESIDENTS OPPOSE EXPANSION

Charles County residents suffer from some of the longest commute times in Maryland. Schools are overcrowded. Forests have been disappearing to development at an alarming rate. Residents of Charles County understand there needs to be a change in how the county grows.

A recent poll conducted by 1000 Friends of Maryland found:

  • nearly two-thirds
    of residents believe the county is growing too fast;
  • 71 percent
    oppose the CCC;
  • 93 percent
    of the community said that if they were writing the plan, protecting local waterways like the Mattawoman and Port Tobacco would be a high priority.
Instead of working with the state, a 3-2 majority of the County Commissioners hired an Annapolis law firm to defend the plan—
in opposition to the recommendation of seasoned County planning staff and before county citizens had the chance to speak to county leaders on the issue.

        

STATE AGENCIES OPPOSE PLAN; MILLIONS IN STATE FUNDING AT RISK

State agencies have panned the plan. In an unprecedented letter from 14 cabinet secretaries and agency leaders, the state's Smart Growth Subcabinet stated that the draft plan "largely ignores the county's wealth of natural resources, productive farmland and a prior focus on improving existing communities."

The state continues:

"Millions of dollars in state financial resources for land preservation, community revitalization and infrastructure improvements have been provided to support the county's past planning efforts. That level of support from the state is now jeopardized by a plan that moves the county in an unsustainable direction."

From the Bay Daily Blog

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