The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners adopted the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan Update 2040 on Tuesday, ending a three-year process to craft the vision for the county for the next two decades.
“The comprehensive plan is now before you,” Commissioners’ President Thomas “Tim” Hutchins (R) said after the board amended language to address growth, the transportation plan, a bay bridge crossing, and mandated a biennial review of the plan and related elements by the planning board.
Unlike the planning commission’s recommended draft plan from December 2018, the adopted version removes the long-standing town center designations of minor and major and expands Huntingtown Town Center across Route 4 and down to its intersection with Cox Road.
Commissioner Mike Hart (R) introduced the motion to adopt the July 23, 2019 draft plan with amendments. Commissioners’ Vice President Kelly McConkey (R) seconded the motion. The plan was adopted in a 3-2 vote, with Hart, McConkey and Hutchins voting in favor.
“I do believe this plan, that’s before us today, makes some significant changes to the path that we have been on for the last 30 years,” said commissioners Earl “Buddy” Hance (R), who along with Commissioner Steve Weems (R) opposed the plan’s adoption.
Hance said he understands that the goal is to drive growth to the town centers, and that the county was probably ahead of its time when it implemented the town center concept to preserve rural areas, but there are things in the adopted plan that give him “pause” to include significant expansion of the town centers.
“It does take away some of the locals’ ability to determine what they want their towns to look like,” Hance said.
Hance said there are certain specifics in the current zoning ordinance that are based on whether a town is designated major or minor.
“If you don’t designate between the towns, the towns all become one, except for their individual zoning,” Hance said.
Hance also said transportation plan information reveals that, with no changes to the town center, in 20 years there will be 55,000 cars traveling through Prince Frederick.
Waldorf is estimated to have 57,000 vehicles per day.
“Traffic-wise, by 2040, based on current zoning and density boundaries, it’s going to look like Waldorf from a transportation perspective,” Hance said.
Hutchins said the town center designations were discriminatory by age, occupation, revenue capability or opportunity.
“Or be overlaid by minority issues such as where you’re from or what color your skin,” Hutchins said, justifying the removal of the label. “That still gives you the ability to shape your town center in a more consistent fashion.”
“This thing has been beat as much as it can be beat. Folks are dug in on both sides of the fence. Until we get the zoning piece, I think the core public opinion will be out,” Hart said, referring to the zoning ordinance rewrite.
Hart said the zoning rewrite presents an “extreme opportunity” to control growth if desired.
“If a property is already purchased and it’s already zoned a certain way… I don’t know if we have the authority to say, ‘You can no longer build on that?’” Hart asked. “Can you just take someone’s rights?”
County Attorney John Norris said the county might deprive a property owner of certain property rights until they are vested, but if the county goes too far, it is known as inverse condemnation.
Weems did not comment, but earlier in the proceedings before adoption, he and Hance loudly opposed the option to expand Huntingtown Town Center across Route 2/4 beyond the high school, incorporating the intersection of Route 2/4 and Cox Road.
McConkey, who has been under fire for not recusing himself in the process because he owns land at the intersection, seconded Hart’s motion to select the option that could potentially increase the market value of his land.
The motion passed with Hutchins’ support, contrary to the planning commission’s final recommendation to only incorporate Huntingtown High School.
Norris informed The Calvert Recorder that the plan could be amended at any time, using the same process to adopt the plan, but state law requires a 60-day notice must be issued to state agencies and adjoining jurisdictions before a public hearing is held.