Prince Frederick, MD – While a 90-minute hearing on Calvert County’s latest Comprehensive Plan draft was quite civil, a majority of speakers were adamant—the draft needs work and citizen input needs to prevail. The Tuesday, Feb. 26 public hearing on the proposed revision of the policy document was held at Calvert Pines Senior Center. The Calvert County Planning Commission, the panel that will recommend a final draft to the county commissioners for adoption, presided over the hearing. Approximately 200 people were in attendance and over 30 attendees spoke.

In a summary provided to hearing attendees, Calvert County Government officials explained the county commissioners, planning commission and county government departments “use the plan as a guide when preparing functional plans and small area plans, evaluating proposed projects or considering changes to legislation, such as the Zoning Ordinance.” The Comprehensive Plan is also referenced by state agencies, bond raters, business owners making investment decisions as well as residents.

Among the repeated criticisms of the draft during the hearing were that the proposed changes to the current plan would allow for bloated residential growth that would overwhelm Calvert’s fragile infrastructure, including roads, water and sewer.
“Our infrastructure is already in bad shape,” declared Cathy Daniels.

Several speakers panned the draft for relying on outdated data, not being environmentally friendly and lacking in language that encourages rural land preservation. “This plan doesn’t seem to emphasize the importance of land preservation,” said David Bourdon of Calvert Farmland Trust.

Former Department of Planning and Zoning Director Greg Bowen stated the draft has “fundamental flaws. It assumes Calvert County’s growth will almost stop. It doesn’t consider thousands of undeveloped lots in Calvert. It removes provisions for controlling growth.” Bowen added that the plan should also include “saying ‘no’ to a new bay bridge.”

“We need to encourage more farms in this area,” said John Sherkis, who spoke on behalf of the Dunkirk Area Concerned Citizens Association.

Jeff Klapper of Prince Frederick declared there was “no information of the consequences of population growth” in the draft plan. Klapper stated that other shortcomings included no strategy for reviving the county’s virtually dormant transfer of development rights (TDRs) initiative.

“I am not against growth,” said Robert Daniels, opining that the plan as written does nothing to control overdevelopment in Calvert. Daniels said the draft plan “destroys” many things that his family moved to Calvert County for. “This would bring Waldorf and Howard County to Calvert.”

At least a dozen more speakers indicated the relatively modest input of residential and commercial developers trumped the voluminous comments submitted by private citizens.

“It feels a little bit like we’re getting a lot of lip service,” said Randi Vogt of Port Republic, who told the planning commission she helped write the original Comprehensive Plan in the late 1980s when she worked in the Department of Planning and Zoning.

“I feel our voice has been ignored,” said Lili Sheeline, another Port Republic resident.
There were a handful of citizens who spoke in favor of the current draft plan.
“We live in a very comfortable way in Calvert County,” said Kirk McAlexander. “You can’t put up a wall and expect vibrancy. I am in favor of some continuous, modest growth.”

Jason Scaggs of Owings stated he is developer and a farmer. Scaggs took umbrage with the critics who speak of local developers with scorn. “A lot of us do some really good things with land,” he said. Scaggs conceded the plan was not perfect but “does need to move forward.”

“I believe the time for discussion is over,” said Eddie Logan of Dunkirk, noting the process for citizen input to the draft has been ongoing for several years.
The draft plan calls for the county’s “major town centers” to “have a conventional density of three dwelling units per acre, which can be increased using TDRs to a density consistent with the approved Town Center Master Plan. These communities allow a wide variety of commercial and residential development.” The draft also allows for increased residential density within one mile of a major town center with the use of TDRs.

Miriam Gholl of Port Republic, a leader of the citizen group Keep Calvert Country, said town center map plans should not be included in the Comprehensive Plan, affirming that density regulations do not belong in a such a plan. Gholl, a former county government planner, indicated the town center boundaries should be determined during the separate town center master plan updates.

When public testimony was completed, a majority of the Planning Commission members voted to leave the record open until the panel’s March meeting.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com