- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
An alternate land use map for part of Newburg raised a few hackles in the Cliffton on the Potomac neighborhood, where some residents feared it would resurrect an affordable housing plan dropped by Charles County government in 2010.
At a public hearing last week, former county Commissioner Gary V. Hodge presented his own proposal for a small part of the countywide tier map, a land use map drafted as required by the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 — the so-called “septic bill.” The draft map divides all land in the county into four tiers based on septic system and sewer use.
Hodge’s proposal covered about four square miles of land, comprising south of Popes Creek Road to Morgantown, from the Potomac River to railroad tracks east of U.S. 301. It bore similarities to the draft map proposed by the Charles County Planning Commission, but Hodge designated a swath of land north and east of Cliffton as destined for a sewer system, where the map approved by the commission, drafted by pro-growth group Balanced Growth Initiative, projected development on septic systems only.
Allowing denser development on that land could entice developers to help pay for needed upgrades to the Cliffton sewage treatment plant, Hodge proposed, so that the plant could then serve the new houses. He based his proposal on agreements made by the prior board of county commissioners in 2010, Hodge said.
“The assumption of the resolutions that were passed in 2010 assumed that additional users of an expanded sewage treatment plant would be needed to finance the upgrade privately, instead of using [public] funds. So you need a large area to be covered by planned sewer area in order to finance it,” Hodge said.
The plan would be “a net plus for the environment” by replacing existing septic systems and upgrading the sewage plant, Hodge said.
But some Cliffton residents felt they had been down this road before, five of whom contacted Commissioner Ken Robinson (D), whose district includes Newburg, to oppose Hodge’s plan, Robinson said. Even without their objections, he would not have supported the plan, Robinson said.
“There are no plans to develop the Cliffton on the Potomac area beyond what’s already there. The sewer treatment plant is at capacity, and if any development were to take place in the future, it would not be planned for Cliffton but the Aqua Land site on the Potomac, in which case we might utilize upgrading the [sewage treatment] facility that’s there [in Cliffton], but there are no plans” to further develop the neighborhood, Robinson said.
One of the people to complain to Robinson was Richard LaMotte, vice president of the Cliffton Community Association. LaMotte saw in Hodge’s plan an attempt to revive a 2010 agreement between county government and a developer to build 500 “affordable” single-family homes in the neighborhood, a plan abandoned the same year in the face of fierce opposition.
Defeating the plan “was definitely a win-win for all of us, and when I saw this particular person [Hodge] putting these documents forward and petitioning the county: ‘Let’s do something. Let’s do all this again,’ it started to stir all of us up. Are they talking about this again?” LaMotte said. But Robinson’s demurral “has set our mind at ease.”
No one opposes upgrading the treatment plant, Hodge wrote in an email, and changing the tier designation did not require resurrecting the affordable housing plan.
“My input on the Tier Map simply recommends corrections that reflect adopted policy, and would enable the County to pursue the replacement and upgrading of the treatment plant with private sector support in the future...” he wrote.
Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D), who was on the board of commissioners in 2010, did not return a call seeking comment.