Growth plan for northern St. Mary’s is next -- Gazette.Net







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Land planners will be looking to northern St. Mary’s County — New Market, Mechanicsville and Charlotte Hall — when they are finished with the development plan for the Lexington Park area within the next year.

Residents should make it known what they want in the northern end of the county when the time comes, planning commission members said last week. The county commissioners should appoint a citizens advisory committee when work begins on the north county area plan, they said, though they made no formal recommendation.

There are the interests of the business community who want to be able to grow, said Phil Shire, director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Land Use and Growth Management, but they have obstacles in access to public sewer and problems meeting standards to offset new traffic.

Then there are the older residents in the area who want to be left alone, who don’t want to abandon their wells or septic systems and be forced to pay to hook into central systems.

“We’re going to have conflicting interests and desires,” Shire said, that county officials have to balance along the way in the development of a master plan.

Merl Evans, planning commission member, said the county commissioners are not progressing with plans for the northern part of the county. For two years in a row, the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission has requested a study of how to bring central sewer to the town centers of Charlotte Hall, Mechanicsville and New Market. For two years in a row, the county commissioners have removed it from MetCom’s budget.

The county commissioners have authority where central services go. MetCom implements those plans.

St. Mary’s County Commissioners Larry Jarboe (R) and Dan Morris (R) have said they want to see a master plan in northern St. Mary’s with the public’s input before any plans are made for central sewer, which could bring in denser development and perhaps require existing residents to hook in.

“Either commit to Charlotte Hall or stop talking about it,” Evans said. “But somebody’s going to have to make a decision.”

“The north end of the county is going to suffer if they don’t get water and sewer and Hughesville will take over as the center of commerce,” said Shelby P. Guazzo, planning commission member and county commissioner from 1998 to 2002. Property potential would go down without central water and sewer service, she said.

“The impetus may well be on Hughesville,” over the county line in Charles County, Evans said.

The Charles County commissioners are planning to bring central sewer to Hughesville and the College of Southern Maryland plans to build a fourth campus there.

“I think the focus is ‘What does the public want?’” in northern St. Mary’s, Shire asked. He noted that the population of the Golden Beach neighborhood, with 903 lots on private wells and septic systems, is more than the rest of Charlotte Hall, Mechanicsville and New Market.

Guazzo recalled a citizens advisory group that worked on Callaway more than a decade ago. “It was terrible. Things sort of came to a grinding halt. It lost focus completely,” she said as accusations were made about members’ property interests.

The Callaway advisory group was studying the best way the little village should grow, and that plan was put on the shelf.

“Where is the Callaway plan now?” Evans asked.

“Back in our office,” Shire said.

“They’re tough. They’re not popular,” Evans said of area master plans.