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A transit-oriented development project proposed in northern Waldorf drew praise for its concept but criticism for impacts to adjacent neighborhoods and wetlands at Monday’s Charles County Planning Commission meeting.

Waldorf Crossing, proposed on two properties on either side of U.S. 301, is projected as a mixed-use project with commercial, industrial and residential units.

The eastern portion of the project, consisting of 54 acres, is planned to be adjacent to a light-rail station near the intersection of Substation Road. The western portion consists of 87 acres, borders the Mattawoman Creek on its north side and includes an extension of Western Parkway to intersect with U.S. 301.

The project plans to have at least 453,000 square feet of commercial and business space, primarily on the western portion of the project. Apartments and townhouses are being planned, primarily on the eastern side.

Ramon Benitez, a consultant for Permit Monkey who represents Chaney Enterprises on behalf of its project, said the development will provide a significant improvement in terms of its investment and transportation.

Speakers generally agreed but wanted some changes to the plan to protect the Mattawoman Creek and improve compatibility with the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This is a concept that is right for this place — high-density, mixed-used residential. The redevelopment on the west side will improve the property because it is currently impervious,” said Nanjemoy resident Ted Baker.

Benitez said the western portion now contains a former dairy, a warehouse and a brownfield, which is an abandoned commercial or industrial site available for re-use that usually has environmental concerns that need to be addressed.

Baker said the extension of Western Parkway should not divide the Mattawoman Creek from residential development near the parkway. Instead, the creek should be integrated into the project in a way that allows the residential development to see the creek as an asset, he said.

Baker asked county staff and Chaney Enterprises to work together to come up with a better plan.

Jim Long, president of the Mattawoman Watershed Society, said the organization is in support of transit-oriented development when it is used correctly, but it cannot be used “as a license to void responsibility.”

Long said the project would affect wetlands, totaliing the size of eight football fields.

He asked for the plan to be examined more comprehensively to integrate with the Waldorf Urban Design Study, address parks and recreation needs with the project’s open space and consider moving the location of Western Parkway because of concerns about runoff into the creek.

“Here it means a highway is being aligned in the worst possible location for one of our most valuable resources,” said Nanjemoy resident Linda Redding.

Benitez said Western Parkway needed to be designated in an appropriate location. Otherwise, the economics of the project would be “significantly in question,” he said.

Redding asked to see more stormwater management planning and impacts of the parkway to the Mattawoman. So far, a stormwater management concept plan has been submitted and approved, Benitez said. Two additional stormwater management plans will need to be submitted before final approval, according to stormwater management regulations.

Another concern was that the proposed density for the project is 5.66 units per acre, which county planning staff found did not adequately fulfill TOD requirements.

County planning staff said this was not the fault of the developer but of the county commissioners who approved a lower density. The project, if it meets a first set of requirements, will possibly be allowed to have a density of up to 23.8 units per acre, county planning staff said.

Benitez said the developer has a strong desire to support TOD with the application, adding that it is only to the benefit of the project to be TOD-oriented.

Waldorf resident Donald Lane, who lives across the street from the eastern section of the project, said that although he is not against development in Waldorf, he is “not excited about having apartments, condos and townhouses near our houses.”

Lane said he would prefer that single-family homes be adjacent to his neighborhood, consisting of 28 single-family homes.

Lane also said the project’s impact on adjacent practice fields, where the Charles County Spartans practice, needs to be thought out thoroughly.

“Getting rid of them without the replacement of fields would affect the community greatly,” Lane said, adding that more definitive answers were needed.

Michael Lucchesi, who lives in the Pinefield neighborhood east of the project, said more analysis was needed on the impact of surrounding areas but wanted to see Western Parkway completed.

Lucchesi suggested ballfields on the property be considered as a spot for a regional park in northern Charles County and be dedicated to Chaney Enterprises employees.

Before the public hearing, planning commission member Lou Grasso complimented the plan for spurring economic development at the gateway to the county and the applicants for showing courage in developing the project.

Commission member Joe Tieger had some concerns about not committing to providing a site for an overpass and other easements for the TOD project.

Jason Groth, the county’s director of road and infrastructure management, said planning staff would like the right of way dedicated to the county, but the applicants had not committed to that.

“So we have a transit-oriented development without a commitment to transit?” Tieger asked.

Groth replied they had not committed to that particular right-of-way.

Benitez said that while land has been offered in the project, the right of way in question had not been dedicated because the alignment of the light rail has not been finalized.

In 2010, the county commissioners agreed to an alignment for the light rail that included five stations in Charles County. Actual construction is not expected to begin for at least five to seven years.

The commission kept the record open for 30 days.