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We all want a cleaner, safer, healthier environment, and there is nothing in the tier map sent to the Charles County commissioners that will weaken that objective.

We have selected a map that is a reasonable and moderate approach that avoids undue hardships on the people of Charles County and does so while fulfilling the stated requirements of the septic bill.

No tier map is perfect, however, the tier map sent to the commissioners protects the property rights of our farmers, prevents the devaluation of their property values and small property owners. It will keep local, independent home builders from going out of business, protect the jobs of the building trades, maintain zoning and land use authority at the local level and make sure that the citizenry of Charles County’s opportunity for ownership of a single-family home on three acres does not become increasingly the province only of the highly affluent and the rich.

It’s important to remember that SB 236 is not a standalone piece of legislation but is magnified when considered as part of the extensive cumulative package of land use and environmental initiatives from the state legislature passed during the last several years. It needs to be emphasized that under the septic bill all future major subdivisions in Tier III will have to undergo a rigorous evaluation process, having a negative impact on future projects.

The tier map submitted for approval by the Charles County Planning Commission was drafted using the framework of the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 and meets the critical requirement of conforming to the land use map that supports the current comprehensive plan and the recommended update. After a careful consideration of all points of view and the information presented with all the tier maps as proposed by the planning staff and the alternative, we saw many similarities in aspects of each of the maps, highlights were in Tier 1 with location and acreage.

Also in Tier II, with the exception that the planning staff did not follow the guidance of the planning commission concerning placing the Deferred Development District in Tier II so it will be in compliance with the current comprehensive plan and the 2012 update recommendation. The Alternative Map did make that adjustment.

Regarding Tier III and Tier IV designations, the acreage in Tier III is underdesignated because the planning staff in all its maps placed the majority of all the land zoned agricultural conservation in Tier IV. Those parts of the county designated agricultural conservation should not be exclusively interpreted as a mandate for conservation alone.

Although, enumerated as agricultural conservation, the AC Zone does not mandate or for that matter require agricultural conservation. Its purpose is to allow the right to farm and the right for large lot development; therefore, it provides options to the landowner, not exclusivity, which is a reason why it was changed as part of the 2012 comprehensive plan update.

Charles County has been ranked one of the richest counties in the nation and by last count, ranked 11th, which stands as an acknowledgment nationally that we as a community must be doing something right in terms of planning and growth management.



Lou Grasso, La Plata

The writer is a member of the Charles County Planning Commission.