The Charles County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote soon on a growth plan for the county which would potentially allow 339 major subdivisions to be built in ecologically sensitive natural areas.
The damage from this kind of uncontrolled sprawl would be substantial. Not only would some of the Chesapeake’s best fish breeding grounds be destroyed in Mattawoman Creek, local traffic problems would become worse, historic farms would be replaced with cookie-cutter subdivisions, and taxes would likely rise to pay for new roads and schools.
Builders and investors would earn big profits while everyone else would suffer. Developers wrote the county’s proposed new land-use plan, and unfortunately, three of the county’s five county commissioners have signaled a willingness to approve it.
On September 20, Maryland Planning Secretary Richard Hall, Maryland Secretary of the Environment Dr. Robert Summers, and 14 other high-ranking state officials in Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration wrote a letter to the Charles County Board of Commissioners urging them to reject the draft plan.
“The change results in a substantial decrease -– from 82 percent to 8 percent –- of county land planned for resource conservation to the lowest of any county in the state by far,” Hall and the other state officials wrote. “The designation of large areas of the county’s rural and agricultural areas for residential development is not sustainable over the long term. It will require enormous expenditures of state and local funds to pay for new schools, new roads, and many other new public facilities.”
How did this bad idea get so far? Charles County’s planning process was hijacked by influential developers in a group called the Balanced Growth Initiative. They wrote a proposed land-use plan that is literally by the developers, for the developers.
Average people who live in Charles County would get a bad deal with the new comprehensive plan, with a loss of their quality of life and the bulldozing of the rural character that defines Southern Maryland.
The broader picture is that all of us would suffer from unregulated growth like this, because it pollutes the Chesapeake Bay. Charles County’s proposed comprehensive plan would undermine the pollution reduction efforts that the Bay area states have pledged to follow to meet EPA pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay.
Under Charles County’s proposed plan, hundreds of new subdivisions on septic systems could be built on farms and forests. This could allow an additional 324,000 pounds of nitrogen pollution per year to leak into waterways and the environment.
If you live in Charles County, or care about the future of the Chesapeake Bay, please urge the Charles County Commissioners to vote against this ill-conceived comprehensive plan.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
(Photo from PublicDomainPictures.net)