A decision on The Calvert County Comprehensive Plan Update for 2040, which is more than three years in the making, now could be less than two weeks away.
The Calvert County commissioners will hold a public hearing July 23 to get feedback on the plan and a recent board decision to remove town center designations, on expanding Huntingtown Town Center boundaries along with a issues that have quality of life impacts.
“The comp plan draft is good. It acknowledges issues. It acknowledges future potential growth,” Huntingtown’s Denise Baldwin Cherry said. “There are 90,000 people here now with limited resources and services partly because of an outdated plan — a plan that was not written for 90,000. The current traffic is a result of the current plan.”
The plan proposes to expand the town center boundaries of Owings, Huntingtown, Prince Frederick, Lusby, Solomons and St. Leonard town centers.
Cherry, works for the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning but speaking for herself, said that Calvert needs economic growth in order to provide for everyone and believes that the town centers should grow. She is also a proponent of “reasonable housing for all” and feels central water and sewer needs to be implemented in all town centers.
“We can still maintain our great natural beauty, our forests, the bay and the river while building the town centers,” Cherry said.
Chesapeake Beach resident David Bury opposes the BOCC’s decision to include town center expansions, before the county has “good data on how much worse those expansions will make traffic congestion.”
Bury prefers to hold off on finalizing the plan until the county updates the decades old transportation plan. He urges the BOCC to defer any decisions on town center expansion to the Town Center Master Plan, once traffic data is available.
Bury is a member of the advocacy group Calvert Coalition for Smart Growth, which is challenging the plan’s lack of prohibitions on large-form retail.
“Three commissioners appear to be determined to turn Dunkirk into a large economic center with dense housing, business and tech growth,” Dunkirk resident Tobey Kriemelmeyer said, noting that developers and realtors will love the plan.
Kriemelmeyer said the residents of Dunkirk are and have traditionally been opposed to such expansion and said Commissioners’ President Thomas “Tim” Hutchins (R) has a vision in conflict with the will of the citizens.
“Dunkirk will ultimately just end up with more empty buildings and stores,” Kriemelmeyer added.
Kriemelmeyer said she is broken-hearted that citizens voicing opinions have been ignored. She inferred that the BOCC was deliberate in scheduling the final hearing for 5 pm, when the working public will not be able to get there.
2019 Patuxent High School graduate Chad Leo wants a county-wide referendum on the comprehensive plan. The freshman and political science major at Salisbury University believes the citizens have not been heard and feels a citizens’ vote will rectify the situation.
“We have three commissioners that are benefiting from changes in the plan,” Leo said, referring to Commissioners Mike Hart (R) and Steve Weems (R) who own liquor stores within town centers, and Commissioners’ Vice President Kelly McConkey (R) who owns land in Huntingtown that could benefit from a resurrected proposal to expand town center boundaries to the corner of Cox Road and Rt. 4.
“A decision of this importance should not be left to the un-diversified Board of Commissioners who have a clear interest in business development.”
Leo likes McConkey as he’s been supportive on school issues and was very popular as a member of the county’s board of education.
“I’m not challenging the fact that he is well liked,” Leo said. “I’m challenging that fact that he remain unbiased.”
“Giving something a town center designation makes it incredibly valuable,” Prince Frederick resident Paul Harrison said. “Where are most gas stations? A corner. That’s where Wawa and FaStops are.”
“Cox Road and Route 4 — those corners are valuable — even more so with a commercial designation,” Harrison added.
Harrison said the comprehensive plan restricts property rights, referring to tier mapping. In 2017, the BOCC adopted a growth tier map, in compliance with the state’s septic laws which seek to minimize pollution by limiting the expansion of private septic systems on the development of major subdivisions and large residential lots.
Harrison, has lived in the county since 2002. He didn’t get involved in county policy, until he had a zoning case with a home business. His wife Tracey owns a hair salon, which he said took 20 months and $38,000 to get approved by special exception in 2013. “I think everything should become a special exception — you need administrative remedy,” Harrison said.
Harrison doesn’t think the county now looks like the 2010 plan. “No where in the 2010 plan was a liquified natural gas plant. We had no idea we would be home to Maryland’s largest construction project in history.”