- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The public has had its say. The comment period on the tier map recently submitted to the county commissioners by their Charles County Planning Commission ended Thursday. The decision is now in the hands of the commissioners.
Under the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act, also called the “septic bill,” that was passed last year by the legislature, all counties in the state must draw up maps that divide each county into tiers. Those tiers identify where new construction can be built on septic systems or public sewer systems.
Proponents of the draft map sent to the county and created by the Balanced Growth Initiative, a group that opposes rural land restrictions in the comprehensive plan and in other county land use policies, say the map protects the property rights of the county’s farmers and prevents the devaluation of land values. Opponents of BGI’s map are upset that the planning commission discarded a map that had been drafted by the county planning staff. They say that BGI’s draft tier map allows the potential for thousands of new building lots to be created in rural areas of the county and that no consideration is given to the environmental impacts of allowing rural development.
The debate has raged on for months. It has pitted, for the most part, the business, development and farming communities against environmentalists.
Now those groups await the county commissioners’ decision on whether to accept the map. The commissioners heard from dozens of people last week in yet another contentious public hearing on the issue.
At the end of this latest hearing, Commissioner Ken Robinson suggested that the commissioners prepare to roll up their collective sleeves and work to hash out a map that could perhaps bring the two opposing sides closer together. Robinson’s motion was voted down only after another vote was made to leave the public comment period for 10 additional days until Jan. 17. But there is reason to think that Robinson might get his wish after all. A day later, Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II expressed his dissatisfaction with both the BGI map and the one drafted by county planners. Collins said he had problems with both maps, but he is certainly in a position to do something about that.
Collins is right when he says that he thought that the idea was to find some middle ground. No attempt has been made to do that up to this point. The planning commission didn’t do it, so now it falls to the county commissioners. There is nothing to say that it’s got to be one map or the other. The county already has missed the deadline to turn in a map to the state, so there is time to tweak the map currently before them.
Too much work has gone into designing these maps, and it’s a shame to not to consider all the aspects of each map and come up with one that the opposing groups can perhaps agree upon to a certain extent.
Through the entire process, there has been input from a mixture of people all with different priorities. There must be a final product that can attempt to bring these priorities, or at least some of them, into one document. Surely a compromise can be made somewhere along the way.