- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Protecting the Mattawoman Creek by placing the majority of its watershed into Tier 4 is good planning, is consistent with its current designation as “deferred,” its density at one dwelling per 10 acres, and is the best possible way to protect the creek from sprawl development.
While Balanced Growth Initiative members and the Charles County Farm Bureau rail on about the taking of property rights, it is clear that zoning is not a taking. The Charles County Planning Commission has the right and responsibility to adopt zoning in the county that serves all of its citizens and not just large landowners, Realtors, developers and bankers. Preventing sprawl development reduces pollution caused by septic runoff caused by impervious surfaces, the air and water cleaning provided by the trees that are removed and environmental pollution caused by longer and more frequent vehicle trips.
Stopping sprawl (three-acre lot development everywhere in the county is sprawl) will allow better school planning, reduce school bus traffic, lower the costs of county services to distant areas and maybe create neighborhoods where people know their neighbors and see each other on foot and not just in cars.
So far in the comprehensive plan discussion, I have heard little from the planning commissioner or staff regarding the major water quality issues facing the county. We need to clean up our major streams. Except the Zekiah Swamp, they are all below standard. The cost of that cleanup will only be increased by three-acre lot development spread throughout the county. Water quality in the Mattawoman can be improved by redevelopment of already disturbed land (with sewer and water) in the Waldorf/White Plains area.
I am hoping that the development plans for Waldorf Crossing make that point. Additionally, the impact of three-acre lot development on our aquifers has not been addressed.
The BGI argument that the allowable density has been in place since the 1970s doesn't make it right. The Farm Bureau argument that downzoning (or Tier 4 designation) takes away their property value “forever” ignores the fact that we revise the comprehensive plan every six years. If it turns out to have been a bad decision, it can be changed in the development of the 2018 comprehensive plan.
Additionally, I’m not sure that lenders make farm production lending decisions based upon the speculative value of a farmer’s land. Banks don't want to be landowners, as witnessed by their behavior during the real estate downturn.
If there are unreasonable restrictions prohibiting “family subdivisions” on large farms, they should be changed.
As far as the specious argument that those of us who oppose BGI and sprawl development should “sell our homes and move to apartments in Waldorf,” I would propose that when developers develop walkable mixed-use communities which will support transit in the future, I’ll do that.
Now, when there are lots of vacant houses and lots of approved subdivision lots already in existence, is the right time to restrict future sprawl. Dare the farmers to work with you on an equitable transferable development rights/PDR program. It should support the protection of real farmland and real farmers and not land speculators. It will require the county to find the dollars to help make it work.
I, for one, would support higher taxes on those who want to see land preserved so that farm land values are supported.
Edwin Baker, Nanjemoy