Farm and Conservation Sense
Will a New Bay Agreement Be Toothless…Again?

Southern Maryland County Sells Out Forested Lands to Development Lobby

Development  Tom Zolper CBFIt is shortsighted to pave the Chesapeake region’s farms and forests for quick cash. But that, tragically, is where the road is heading in Southern Maryland -– to a landscape with more Taco Bells than tobacco barns, and more strip malls than streams full of yellow perch.

Development interests in Charles County formed a  cynically-named lobbying group called the “Balanced Growth Initiative” that has gained political influence over a slim majority of the Board of Charles County Commissioners.

On Tuesday, that majority voted 3-2 to approve a planning map that shifts 9,000 acres out of a conservation area and into a classification for future development.  The vote defied the opinions of  a clear majority of county residents and opens the door for more sprawling development across the County’s forest lands.

“This sends the absolute worst message imaginable,” Commissioner Ken Robinson said, according to a report in the (Southern Maryland) Independent.

Robinson and Board President Candice Quinn Kellyvoted against the bad planning map, while Commissioners Bobby Rucci, Debra Davis and Reuben Collins voted to approve the map.  The county was required to create the map by a state law that seeks to limit developments with high-pollution septic systems.

“Once more, the three (Rucci, Davis, and Collins) have demonstrated their contempt for the public by catering to the development lobby, the Balanced Growth Initiative (BGI),” wrote a local conservation group called the Smarter Growth Alliance of Charles County in a Facebook posting.  “This tier map will lead to continued high property taxes, unsafe and overcrowded schools, and horrible traffic congestion.”

In voting to allow more sprawl development, the three commissioners gave the green light to more pollution in the Chesapeake Bay at a time when state and local governments across the region are working hard to reduce pollution and meet EPA pollution limits.  To learn more about why the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is important, click here

The commissioners also ignored the opinions of a six member advisory work group that they themselves had appointed.  And they ignored the opinions of the general public. A  poll conducted by 1000 Friends of Maryland found that nearly two-thirds of Charles County residents believe the county is growing too fast, and that 93 percent of the local people polled believe that protecting local waterways should be a top priority in county planning.

Four years ago, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and 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 over the “sprawl highway” 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, the development lobby 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.

Enough is enough.  It is time the leadership of Charles County start listening to their own voters, and focus on protecting the local quality of life, instead of short-term cash.

To learn more, click here.

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation 

 

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The development lobby "owns"!the majority of the Commissioners, one of which is a Real Estate broker. A majority of three that does the bidding of the Balanced Growth Initiative (an oxymoron if there ever was one!!). The goal of course is higher density development throughout the entire county. The Mattawoman is in the developer's sights because of the "waterfront" amenities and the rail trail... and because it is located so close to Bryans Road and Maryland Airport. The BGI 3 (as the Commissioner majority is known) has already set aside $1 MILLION to resurrect the Cross County Connector despite the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied this "development corridor". Charles County is imploding upon itself with the highest property taxes in the state and horribly overcrowded schools. In addition, ground wafer supplies continue to decline as demand is outpacing supply SOLELY due to overdevelopment. However the MDE continues to issue Water Appropriation Permits for withdraws exceeding 10,000 gallons per day. The developers are in control and have had that control since the 1950's...it appears that this pattern will continue for years to come..

Folks, read & weep. Then get charged. If you are live in Charles, educate yourselves about how the elected officials are behaving, and mark your calendars for the primary election on June 24.

And stay tuned for a possible hearing on this horrible septic-sewer plan. Even if you live outside the county, you can get involved in a hearing if it occurs. Mattawoman Creek is the county's strongest recreational draw, generating tens of millions of commerce a year, and a priceless outdoors experience.

Learn more by checking out the marvelous material in the "click here" link at the end of Tom's article above. You can also learn more at www.mattawomanwatershed.org

"Balanced growth initiative" is such a deceiving name. How clever of them.

When Commissioner Collins made the motion (that passed by the BGI-3 --Collins -Davis and Rucci) that caused the formation of the tier maps working group, it was supposed to have these results:

1. map recommended by the working group

2. an up or down vote on that map

BUT the same BGI-3 (Collins -Davis and Rucci) voted FOR the "work group" voted to change the "work group" recommended map.
There are many problems with the map--but primarily it will mean the destruction of thousands of acres of forest. All of those forests are protecting water quality and quality of life for Charles County AND they are all in DNR Green Print - Targeted Ecological Areas!
What is wrong with decision makers who don't understand we are in a Climate Change Crisis? We should hold onto every tree we have -- it will make Charles County richer and more stable for the future. Smarter and less corrupt counties are saving forests AND planting trees ! This battle isn't over yet ! Because Charles County has two Smarter Growth elected leaders (Kelly and Robinson) citizens are waking up - standing up and demanding better.

Mary, the name "Balanced Growth Initiative" may at first seem clever, but other than the three Commissioners (Bobby Rucci, Debra Davis and Reuben Collins) that BGI has convinced to go along with their sprawl development plan, the overwhelming sentiment of the public in Charles County has been AGAINST these moves.

In fact, the Commissioners received over 2,000 written comments against BGI's sprawl development plan vs. a mere 30 who wrote in support of the plan.

So while three of the Commissioners (a majority of the Board) are indeed supporting BGI's development plan, a massive majority of citizens are against the plan.

It should be an interesting June election in Charles County in the Democratic Primary.

If you want more of something you subsidize it.

It seems that many of the same people who want to protect, preserve and subsidize our environment are also in favor of subsidized housing.

Subsidized housing is a large part of the sprawl and many of the people who live in subsidized housing are culturally uninterested in nature or the presrvation of it.

It all seems counter productive to me.


We were just traveling through Charles County and there seems to be many spots that look to be prime for the picking; some actually have signs that they are up for sale. D.C. and it's suburbs are constantly growing and the building will likely continue to grow. I expressed to my boyfriend that I wished I had the money because I would purchase some lots just for conservation and to promote habitats.

If only..

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)