Work to revitalize Lexington Park has been ongoing for decades. Emerging around 1943, “The Park,” as it is known by some, flourished with new development to support an influx of workers employed at the newly established Naval Air Station Patuxent River. By the 1980s, the migration of businesses to the California area began to leave parts of the community blighted.
Updating the Lexington Park Development District master plan, which the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission spent four years revising before it was approved in 2016, was meant to provide a mix of zoning uses in the area, promote job growth and economic diversification and improve safety and health services. But an error in the land-use classification of one property was discovered and subsequently corrected, prompting local government agencies in 2016 to conclude the land use for all 13,617 parcels in the district should be reviewed, according to a memo from Bill Hunt, St. Mary’s land use and growth management director.
On Monday, the planning commission approved its recommended master plan for the Lexington Park growth area, which will now move to the St. Mary’s commissioners for their review.
The Lexington Park Development District covers about 17,000 acres, including the areas of Lexington Park, California and Great Mills. This area is the prime target for growth in St. Mary’s County, along with the Leonardtown Development District, though that one is overseen by the town of Leonardtown.
After reviewing the parcels last year, two additional properties on Smoke Hill Road and Indian Bridge Road were rezoned to allow for more development.
“Innovation following error is not the preferred way to make progress,” Hunt told the St. Mary’s commissioners during a May meeting last year, when the land use maps for the district were approved by the county commissioners.
“But for St. Mary’s County and for the department of information technology, this was an opportunity that was grasped by all parties” to utilize the county’s GIS mapping system, Hunt said during that meeting. “It has taken off and is something to be proud of, the information we can put out there. There’s a lot of good that’s come out of it.”
With the land-use map updated, county planners turned their attention to the growth area’s master plan, updating a number of zoning definitions and development standards to open the door for development there.
“A number of us have properties who have been kind of in limbo with new zoning designations that have been adopted by the commissioners, but not having regulations to support what can be done on those properties,” local developer John Parlett said at the Monday night planning commission meeting. “It honestly held up commerce, on some level, in the last couple years. And we’re happy to see this completed.”
“When it first started [in 2010] I had two grandchildren,” Parlett said. “Now I have seven.”
Planners and county staff updated the zoning regulations to open the door for more business uses, like information technology and surveillance to storage facilities, J. Howard Thompson, planning commission chair, said in an interview. Five new land uses were also added in the recommended zoning update, some which promote high density commercial development.
The goal was to make Lexington Park more business friendly, and to pave the way for infrastructure that supports residents there, while paying mind to the air installations compatibility use zone, or AICUZ, which limits development around the Navy base, Thompson said.
“Everybody has seen where the corridors started moving north” up Route 235, Thompson said. “We just wanted to make sure that Lexington Park itself was ready for the future. That’s why it took us so long,” he said.
“It’s been a very long road,” Thompson said Monday. “We’re ready for the next task.”
“The next task won’t be as long as this,” Hunt said.