Draft Lexington Park plan reduces area targeted for growth -- Gazette.Net



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Community meetings were held on the future of Lexington Park and surrounding areas two years ago, and then complications arose. Now a revised Lexington Park Development District Plan is re-emerging from the county’s land-use office, which affects a third of St. Mary’s County’s population.

In this version, the land-use staff is recommending that 1,900 acres near Route 4 leading to the Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge and the Patuxent River be removed from the district where, by county policy and rules, future development is encouraged.

The Lexington Park Development District, where some 35,582 people live, currently covers about 17,000 acres, including Great Mills and California. The district’s population is expected to grow by 31 percent from 2010 to 2020 to 46,800 people and by 69 percent from 2010 to 2030 for a population of 60,000, said Jeffrey Jackman, senior planner with the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management.

Lexington Park and Leonardtown areas are the two main areas of intended growth in St. Mary’s, where high-density housing is facilitated by central water and sewer service.

As for the future of Lexington Park, “we’re not talking Silver Spring — 30-story buildings there,” Jackman said. The Hickory Hills, Wildewood and Settlers Landing neighborhoods are models of what the plan hopes to encourage, he said.

There is plenty of room within the Lexington Park Development District for the future growth, said Phil Shire, director of land use and growth management. Along a section on Great Mills Road, “you could get 3,000 [homes] just in that little corner area,” he said, in the future developments of East Run, across from Great Mills High School, and Stewart’s Grant, behind Carver Elementary School.

That’s why the planning staff is recommending to reduce the development district’s size by 1,900 acres, mainly along Route 4 (Patuxent Beach Boulevard) on the way to the Johnson bridge. There are established neighborhoods in the area, but limited future development because of the proximity to the Patuxent River, triggering Chesapeake Bay Critical Area regulations that limits shoreline development. There is also the waterfront 192-acre Myrtle Point Park, which was earlier suggested for removal from the development district.

If the Lexington Park Development District boundary were to be lifted from the Patuxent Beach Boulevard area, neighborhoods like The Woods at Myrtle Point, Woodland Acres, Kingston Manor, Cal Acres and Town Point would retain whatever development potential they have remaining under the residential neighborhood conservation district zone, Shire said.

“What we’re releasing is just a staff draft,” Jackman said.

The Lexington Park plan revision will be presented to the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission in July and then to the county commissioners. Both bodies will hold public hearings on the draft plan, which could be adopted this winter.

Work on the Lexington Park Development District was moving along in 2011, but then there were “internal complications, nothing really to do with the plan,” Jackman said. “It’s something we’ve wanted to bring closure to for a long time.”

Derick Berlage resigned as department director in July 2011. Then after hearing public input during community meetings on the plan, the hired consultant, Jakubiak and Associates, came back with a draft plan that only focused on the Lexington Park downtown, Jackman said. It needed to address the entire area, so the consultant went back to do more work. The next version came back “disjointed and incomplete,” Jackman said, so another version was produced. Then the land use and growth management staff added their touches to the forthcoming draft.

St. Mary’s County government paid Jakubiak and Associates just less than $100,000 to do its work, Jackman said.

And then more work piled on county staff from new state and federal mandates regarding septic systems and limiting runoff pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. “From June 2012 to January 2013 we were helping the county commissioners get through their deadlines,” Jackman said, “and it was fairly full plate to do that.”

Once the Lexington Park plan is updated from the 2005 version, the department of land use and growth management will start work on a master plan for Charlotte Hall.

jbabcock@somdnews.com