- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s County Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) made the motion Tuesday to remove a $5.3 million public sewer project out of plans for Charlotte Hall and New Market. The rest of the board agreed.
Charlotte Hall and New Market are designated as growth areas in St. Mary’s County’s land-use plan. Charlotte Hall, along with Hughesville, is also the area where the College of Southern Maryland hopes to locate a new central campus.
Jarboe’s Charlotte Hall Lumber Co., located on industrially zoned property in Charlotte Hall, is one of six entities that in March submitted offers to sell land for that new campus.
The new campus seeks a central sewer system.
There are three private sewer systems in Charlotte Hall — one for the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, and the other two are owned by developers Ben Burroughs Jr. and F. Elliott “Sonny” Burch Jr.
Jarboe’s lumber mill is next door to Burroughs’ shopping center property, which is served by Burroughs’ private system. Jarboe said he is not part of Burroughs’ system. Private systems are supposed to serve only one property owner.
Jarboe said Thursday keeping the public sewer system in for Charlotte Hall could have only helped him rather than hurt him sell his land to CSM. “If we pushed forward” with public sewer, instead of removing it from county plans for fiscal 2015, “it would have been more to my benefit,” he said.
The St. Mary’s County Public Ethics Ordinance states: “Confidence and trust is eroded when the conduct of the St. Mary’s County Government’s business is subject to improper influence and even the appearance of improper influence.”
“Someone has created a perception,” Jarboe said.
“That’s [Burroughs’] private system, not ours.” Of the two private systems in Charlotte Hall, Jarboe said he has “never negotiated with anyone to connect to any of them.”
Developer John Parlett shares a private sewer system with Burch. Parlett’s company, Charlotte Hall Commerce Center, is another bidder for the College of Southern Maryland’s new campus. By removing the public sewer project for the area, “it limits the balance of the market” to those two private systems, Parlett said.
Removing public sewer from Charlotte Hall shouldn’t hurt St. Mary’s in the effort to win the new CSM campus because Hughesville has no public sewer system either, Jarboe said.
“I put in a bid based on the fact that it’s available,” he said of his lumber yard. The property is 18 acres. CSM’s request for proposals says it is looking for 20 to 25 acres.
“What a prize that would be to have a fourth college campus in St. Mary’s County,” Parlett said, joining the Leonardtown campus of CSM, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in California.
The other entities offering property are Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative in Hughesville, The St. Charles Companies in Waldorf, Hughesville Station in Waldorf and Jane G. Henderson of La Plata.
Jarboe and the rest of the St. Mary’s County commissioners Tuesday agreed to table the public sewer project for Charlotte Hall until a master plan is developed for the area.
“We want to see a master plan first,” said Commissioner Dan Morris (R) on Thursday. “That’s a beautiful town center with a good potential for business.”
Developers, he said, “they only think of the money and not of the community.”
“We’ve watched Charlotte Hall develop one property at a time with no master plan,” Parlett said. “Luckily everyone’s doing a pretty good job. But that’s by chance, not by design.”
Without public sewer, Charlotte Hall won’t be able to meet the density required by the Maryland Department of Planning to become a priority funding area, said Phil Shire, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management.
Without that approval, state funding could be withheld to improve roads. “It just kind of unravels,” Shire said Wednesday. Already, “traffic is becoming the restrictor” in Charlotte Hall, he said.
“We have an infrastructure problem up there,” he said.
“When the state withholds money, that’s your money,” Morris said. “That doesn’t seem to be fair. Annapolis doesn’t even understand St. Mary’s County.”
“I don’t know how to reconcile the county’s decision [Tuesday] and state mandates,” said Jacquelyn Meiser, director of the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission, which operates public water and sewer systems.
The state is restricting new development using septic systems, because they add to the nitrogen load into the Chesapeake Bay.
“It was an unexpected turn of events,” Meiser said, when the entire board pulled the sewer project out of near-term plans for Charlotte Hall and New Market.
“That’s unfortunate and very shortsighted,” Parlett said. Charlotte Hall is the “de facto development district” in northern St. Mary’s. To remove public sewer in the planning phase “shows a distinct lack of leadership,” Parlett said. “If we don’t have something in the planning phase, we’re never going to get it.”
Work on the Charlotte Hall Master Plan can begin whenever work on the Lexington Park Development District plan is completed. Work should reconvene on that in September, Shire said.