A great egret stands sentinel in Mattawoman Creek, Charles County, Maryland. Photo © Krista Schlyer/iLCP
Charles County Adopts Landmark Comprehensive Plan That Will Help Save Treasured Mattawoman Creek
In 2013, 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 ink had barely dried on that decision when, in 2015, special interests put forth a plan proposal that would allow sprawling growth and resurrect the Cross County Connector. Despite overwhelming public opposition, damaging elements of that plan made it all the way through the review process to the desks of Charles County Commissioners.
But thanks to the tireless efforts of thousands of residents, supported by a coalition of local and regional community, environmental and recreational organizations, the Charles County Board of Commissioners passed a much improved plan on July 12, 2016.
At a series of public hearings this spring, county citizens and the coalition made it clear that putting Mattawoman Creek and the county’s open spaces at risk of irreversible decline was unacceptable. Together, we demanded a new direction for development that prioritizes conservation of sensitive areas and investment in existing communities.
The Commissioners listened. On June 28, in a series of 3-2 votes, Commissioners Robinson, Stewart and Murphy amended the Plan to include sweeping changes to the way Charles County grows:
- Stronger zoning for the Mattawoman watershed and other stream valleys.
- An expanded Priority Preservation Area to include thousands of acres of forestland and open space in Nanjemoy that contribute to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
- Elimination of the over-sized Development District that promotes sprawl development in western Waldorf and detracts from redevelopment efforts that will revitalize existing communities.
The Commissioners also adopted a number of other changes that will result in additional protections to natural resources and advance sustainable growth in the County:
- Bryans Road is now planned to develop as a village rather than an urban growth center. An urban Bryans Road would have been reliant on the Cross County Connector, which has been removed from the draft plan.
- The Employment, Business, and Industrial Park designations on land surrounding Maryland Airport and on the forested Indian Head tech park site has been reclassified for preservation. This land is remote, forested, and highly sensitive and should be prioritized for protection rather than development.
- Planners will work to determine how much growth the county can sustain fiscally and environmentally, and plan accordingly. The old plan envisioned 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.
The final vote on July 12 stands as a landmark decision that will help ensure Mattawoman Creek and the county's waterways are not overwhelmed by the negative effects of sprawling growth. After almost a decade in suspense, Charles County is leading the region toward a more sustainable future.