Prince Frederick, MD – Several Calvert County Government department heads and division chiefs attended the September meeting of the local planning commission. The session held Wednesday, Sept. 17 at the Harriet E. Brown Community Center was, among other things, a resumption of the proposed changes to Calvert’s Comprehensive Plan. It was also time to review the 30-year-old Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO. As explained by Department of Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Mary Beth Cook, the regulations “tie development approval to the availability and adequacy of public facilities”—in Calvert’s case, roads and schools. Text amendments proposed for the Adequate Public Facilities requirements of the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance only involve schools. 

In addition to a pair of editorial corrections the proposed text amendments would “change the time period for the maximum delay for final approval of a residential subdivision or residential development from seven years to six years to match the time period of the county’s Capital Improvements plan.” The proposed modifications would also “change the adequate capacity threshold from 100 to 110 percent based upon the Calvert County Public Schools staff’s observation that the schools can operate at 110 percent capacity without compromising efficiency.”

In 1988, when the APFO was first enacted in Calvert, the adequate capacity threshold for public schools was 110 percent. The number was changed to 100 percent in 2001. Planning commission member John Toohey asked why it was changed. “At the time we were building a school a year and the growth rate was higher,” said Department of Planning and Zoning long-range planner Jenny Plummer-Welker. Currently, three schools—Northern High, Beach Elementary and Mount Harmony Elementary—are over 100 percent of the adequate capacity threshold. “I can’t see this one,” said Toohey of the higher adequate capacity threshold, indicating having a school with an enrollment that would be almost 300 over the adequate capacity could adversely impact education.

Two citizens spoke during the session. James Winship of Prince Frederick called the proposed 110 percent adequate capacity threshold “a major policy change” that shouldn’t go forward until parents and public school teachers had a chance to offer feedback. Miriam Gholl of Port Republic stated, “there’s no need to increase this [threshold] unless you adopt this Comprehensive Plan which blows open development, enlarging town centers.”

“I’d like to leave it at 100 percent,” said Toohey, a retired school teacher. A majority of the planning commission members at the meeting agreed. County government staff will send the proposed amendment to agencies and then the public with the adequate capacity threshold remaining at 100 percent.

Dunkirk sewer discussion
During review of three chapters of the proposed Comprehensive Plan, a discussion about possibly designating Dunkirk a major town center took place. Planning commission member Carolyn McHugh noted that some of the comments received during the revision process have been critical of that proposal, which could result in public sewer. It was 20 years ago that Dunkirk citizens loudly protested any proposal that would do just that. Department of Planning and Zoning Director Mark Willis noted that developers have built private septic systems to service their commercial properties. “Developers are planning it, the county is not planning it,” said Willis. “I don’t know how you stop it. Whether we call something a major town center or a minor town center doesn’t stop people from moving there.”

In comments submitted to county staff, J.P. and Phyllis Sherkus wrote, “I think everyone in the county knows Dunkirk’s long-time stance on public sewer and water. That has not changed. We do not want to be a major town center. Please explain why Dunkirk must change to a major town center.”

During the Sept. 19 meeting, Willis explained that Dunkirk is just behind Prince Frederick in the amount of business space. Planning Commission Vice Chairman Steve Jones declared, “if it makes Dunkirk citizens feel better to call it a minor town center, let’s do it.” Jones lamented the perception that county government was “digging holes and installing pipes overnight in Dunkirk.”

During the planning commission’s October meeting, staff will review the proposed Comprehensive Plan’s proposed changes to transportation. The subject of land use will be the topic of discussion at the November meeting. By then, the identities of the five individuals who will serve on the next Calvert Board of County Commissioners will likely be known.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com