Updated: Feb 7, 2019
A comparison between the Land Use chapters in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan and the draft 2040 plan indicates that some creative editing was done either by or on behalf of developers before the 2040 draft even got to the public for review. Developers have just as much right as anyone else to express viewpoints but we should all be sitting at the same table and that’s not what happened. To read a full comparison of the 2010 vs 2040 Action Items, CLICK HERE.
A comparison shows that the action statements in the current Comprehensive Plan were used as a base for the draft 2040 action statements, but the Planning Commission and citizens really need to compare the two plans to fully understand what is being proposed in the 2040 draft. Some of it is very disturbing.
Growth Management: For example, the draft 2040 plan no longer says anything about growth management. The following action statements from the current 2010 Plan have been deleted from the 2040 draft:
“Continue to support policies that link the amount, location and rate of residential growth to County land use objectives, including highway, school, and aquifer capacities.”
“Monitor residential growth and evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations to meet growth management objectives.”
Agricultural Preservation: The 2040 draft seems to support land preservation, particularly within the Farm and Forest District (also called Priority Preservation Area). But if you look at action statements that have been deleted from the 2010 plan, a different story emerges. It looks very much like the Comprehensive Plan is setting the stage for opening up the Farm and Forest District to more residential development.
The following action statements in the current 2010 Comprehensive Plan are not included in the 2040 draft:
“Do not increase highway capacity within the Farm and Forest District.”
“Continue to look for ways to direct residential growth away from the Farm and Forest District.”
“Give priority to farming (such as “right to farm” regulations), forestry, wildlife habitat protection, and heritage/ecotourism within the Farm and Forest District.”
For anyone who thinks deleting these statements is merely an oversight, compare these two statements:
2010 plan: “Reserve the Farm and Forest District (Priority Preservation Areas) for farming and natural resource-related uses and direct residential growth away from these areas.”
2040 draft: “Reserve the Farm and Forest District (Priority Preservation Areas) for farming and natural resource-related uses.” (deleted: “and direct residential growth away from these areas”)
Inexplicably, the 2040 draft even weakens the county’s commitment to promoting economic growth in farming related businesses: Notice the subtle difference between these two statements:
2010 Plan: “Strengthen marketing and value-added opportunities for farm product sales in the region by the following approaches: 1-17a-c)”
2040 draft: Permit and market value-added opportunities for farm product sales. (deleted: “Strengthen marketing”)
To be fair, there are a couple of improvements in the 2040 plan. Here is one:
2010 Plan:” Consider permitting low-impact supplemental income opportunities within the Farm and Forest District and Rural Community District that support, complement, and promote farming and heritage/ecotourism.”
2040 draft: “Permit low-impact supplemental income opportunities within the Farm and Forest and Rural Residential areas that support, complement, and promote farming and heritage/ecotourism. “
But why was this statement deleted?
“Continue to work with the County’s land trusts to identify and preserve farms that are critical to the protection of lands in Priority Preservation Areas.”
Then there are new action statements that need further clarification:
“Periodically review and update the Calvert County Growth Tier Map.”
“Evaluate the use of TDRs within the Farm and Forest areas and the Rural Residential areas.”
“Evaluate the funding and administration of the Purchase and Retirement Program for development rights.”
If it is the intention to review and evaluate the Growth Tier Map, TDRs and the Purchase and Retirement program in order to strengthen land preservation programs these statements are all well and good. But the intention may be to weaken them. The draft 2040 plan doesn’t tell us.
Here is another puzzler. The 2010 plan says:
“Continue to support the goal of permanently preserving a minimum of 40,000 acres of prime farm and forestland through County, state and federal land preservation programs.”
The original 2040 draft deleted “40,000 acres” so that the action statement read ““Continue to support the goal of permanently preserving a minimum of prime farm and forestland ….” Maybe it was a typo. Thanks to people who drew attention to the omission, the 40,000 acres has since been added back.
Strip Commercial Development: Another example of creative editing concerns strip commercial development. On the one hand, both the 2010 Plan and the 2040 draft say:
“Do not permit additional commercial development along highways outside town centers.”
But then the 2040 draft cleverly gets around this restriction by extending the boundaries of Town Centers along highways so that the plan still meets the “letter of the law” while still providing plenty of additional space for car dealerships, gas stations, fast food restaurants and shopping centers along Rt 2/4 between Lusby and Solomons and along Rt 231 in Prince Frederick.
If there is any doubt that this action was intentional, here is wording from the 2010 plan that has been deleted from the 2040 draft:
“Do not expand existing town centers along MD 2, MD 4, or MD 2/4. In addition, do not expand Huntingtown, St. Leonard, or Lusby across MD 2/4 or Owings across MD 2.”
The original 2040 draft expanded the Huntingtown Town Center across Rt 2/4. At least for the time being that has been reduced to include only Huntingtown High School but we’ll see.
Expanding Town Centers is not the only way the 2040 draft opens the door to more strip commercial development. Expanding Rural Commercial Districts may also be on the horizon with this subtle change in wording:
2010 Plan: “Prohibit the expansion of rural commercial districts.”
2040 draft: “Restrict the expansion of rural commercial uses and maintain a small-scale rural character.”
Rural Commercial Development: Then there is this new action statement located in the Housing Chapter which could enable gas stations and fast food restaurants anywhere along a major road:
“Consider allowing small retail and service uses on the first floor of residential structures along major roads.”
The 2010 Plan states: "Prohibit the expansion of rural commercial districts."
Town Center Appearance: The 2010 Plan says:
“Continue to improve the appearance of town centers by emphasizing Town Center Master Plan Capital Improvement Projects and Architectural Review.
The original 2040 draft said:
“Continue to improve the appearance of town centers by emphasizing Town Center Master Plan Capital Improvement Projects. (deleted: “Architectural Review”). Upon protest, Architectural Review has been added back.
Major vs. Minor Town Centers: The 2010 plan designates North Beach, Chesapeake Beach, Prince Frederick and Solomons as major Town Centers and Dunkirk, Owings, Huntingtown St. Leonard and Lusby as minor Town Centers. It then says,
“Allow multi-family housing (apartment and townhouses) in major Town Centers; do not allow multi-family housing in minor Town Centers except as may be permitted in Town Center Master Plans.”
This wording is not included in the 2040 draft. Instead, Dunkirk is designated as major town center so now multi-family housing will be allowed regardless of what the current or any future Dunkirk Town Center Master Plan says.
Sewer: Then there is action item 126.96.36.199 which is completely open-ended with no restraints what so ever.
“Allow privately-funded community sewage treatment facilities to serve commercial, industrial and employment uses located outside Town Centers and Residential Areas, consistent with economic development goals.”
Or this enigmatic item 188.8.131.52:
“Consider allowing developer-funded extension of public water and sewer systems into the Residential Areas around Prince Frederick, Lusby, and Solomons. “
Conclusion: What is so disturbing about these changes is that they appeared without any notification or justification and are very easy to miss. On the surface, the 2040 draft appears to support the same goals and objectives that have served as guides to decision-making for the fifty years. But then there are these little edits along the way that take the county in a completely new direction. We can only hope that the Planning Commission and the next Board of County Commissioners take a good long look before adopting this plan.
TO READ A FULL COMPARISON OF THE 2010 VS 2040 ACTION ITEMS, CLICK HERE.