Old Calvert Middle area development could get underway by end of month
Commissioners discuss TDR, armory, parking changes
The early stages to develop the area near the former Louis L. Goldstein Armory and the former site of the old Calvert Middle School in Prince Frederick could begin as early as the end of the month.
During a presentation to the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, the Calvert County Department of Community Planning and Building outlined steps that could change transferable development rights, the look of the area near the Armory, parking space regulations, signage regulations and more.
As an effort to retire more transferable development rights, the Calvert County Department of Community Planning and Building is considering a measure to decrease the amount of TDRs needed for development. This could be implemented with a pilot program to develop the area known as Armory Square in Prince Frederick as well as in Solomons. Depending on the success, more programs could be initiated in the future.
The TDR rate would most likely be a sliding scale depending on the amount of units per acre, said Tom Barnett, director of Community Planning and Building, in a phone interview Wednesday.
A request for proposals could go out as early as this month for developers to bid on the project, a mixed-use residential and commercial area in Prince Frederick. From there, public meetings could be held with the contractors.
Current zoning regulations don’t encourage mixed-use or higher-density housing types in town centers, and the sale of TDRs has slowed, with more than 12,000 acres of land with available TDRs, according to the presentation. Now that residential growth has slowed significantly than in past years, the plan is a way to encourage growth, but only in town centers, to maintain the county’s rural character.
During the Prince Frederick charrette last year, those who attended expressed a want for a more mixed-use and walkable neighborhood. The Armory Square area is 93 acres, but the county owns about a third of the land, so planning would be done in cooperation with developers and landowners, and a master plan would be developed.
“Our worries about too much residential growth have lessened,” Barnett said Tuesday. “… Residential growth is necessary to have buyers for the TDRs.”
Barnett assured the board that higher-density housing does not necessarily mean high-rises and an urban atmosphere, showing pictures of row houses and cottages as examples of higher-density residential space suitable for the Armory Square neighborhood.
The existing armory building could be adopted for use as public space depending on an assessment of the facility’s economic viability.
In addition to the information presented about ways to sell more TDRs, the department is also considering changing the regulations on the required amount of parking spaces.
Having too much parking creates a vacant “dead zone,” said principal planner Jenny Plummer-Welker on Tuesday. A joint public hearing to change the regulations could come as soon as fall of this year after a draft is presented to the commissioners during a work session.
The idea would be to create multi-use parking, which, at different times of the day, would be used by different destinations.
Changes in sign regulations could also be in the works. Currently, sign regulations are not located in one place or document. The issues confronted would include regulations for electronic signs, signs for farm stands, temporary signs and banners and more. A joint public hearing also could come as soon as the fall.
The ideas presented for change produced both concern and support among the commissioners.
“The parking regulations — to me, that is overdue,” said Commissioners’ Vice President Steve Weems (R). He also expressed support of the TDR modifications.
Commissioners’ President Pat Nutter (R) said the plan brings up unanswered questions, such as traffic patterns in Prince Frederick.
“I think the concept is good, but there’s still some unanswered questions,” Nutter said.
Barnett said Wednesday there would be consideration for traffic issues, maybe with an internal traffic study.
Commissioner Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) said there needs to be consideration not only for traffic, but also for sewage and well capacity as well as the effect a population increase could have on the school system.
“As for the TDR program, I’m very obviously willing to take a look at that, whatever we can do to spur life into that,” Clark said.
Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said development in Prince Frederick could mean fewer people leave the county to shop, and it may even attract some Hughesville residents.
Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said she hopes to see the changes in the TDR rates and the parking regulations by the end of her last term as commissioner in December.
“I think that this presentation shows that we have been listening to the citizens and we are really attempting to make the Department of Community Planning and Building work properly,” Shaw said.
In other business, the commissioners:
• Agreed to contribute $20,000 from the General Services Buildings and Grounds maintenance fund as a grant to the Battle Creek Nature Education Society to rebuild the fishing shanty, which was destroyed by arson in 2012;
• Unanimously agreed to expand water and sewer services to Dominion Cove Point offsite area A at no cost to the county, as Dominion will pay for that project’s cost of more than $3 million, as well as additional tap fees and usage charges;
• Held a public hearing with no speakers, voted to close the record and approved a budget adjustment for the Appeal Landfill utility upgrade for the Dominion Cove Point sewer project of $3,199,200, at no cost to the county;
• Approved a memorandum of understanding to allow Dominion Cove Point to use 1.154 acres of county-owned land as a site for wetland mitigation. For the acreage, the county would receive $90,422; and
• Approved a memorandum of understanding regarding the timeline for the changes and renovations to the courthouse.