Indian Head, MD – Keep development to a minimum around the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center. That’s what the Town of Indian Head was told at a public hearing Wednesday, March 25, after a recent joint land use study encouraged compatible uses between the Navy base and the surrounding community.

But citizens were asking just how do you do that when the Charles County Planning Commission just approved, on Monday evening, a major development within what the study designates is a moderate noise pollution area?

How to fulfill the study’s findings and still work within the perimeters of the plan was front and foremost during an exchange between drafters of the joint land use study and citizens of the town.

The study was conducted by Resource Management Concepts Inc., Jukubiak Town and City Planning and Johnson, Mirmiran and Thompson.

Edith Hoschar, program manager for Resource Management Concepts, outlined the study’s findings, to promote comparable growth non-conflicting with the military mission at NSWC, sustain the environmental and economic health, and public safety.

The designated area is within a five-mile radius of the base.

“The most impacted areas are in western Charles County,” Hoschar said. “There are some concerns in Virginia.

“We are seeking a compatible balance between the military and community needs and interests,” she said, “unexploded ordnance and munitions among them.”

Hoschar suggested land use restrictions through a zoning ordinance by the county and community to control and direct the development of property.

“Current and planned range activity of a changing and growing mission can impact the community in positive and negative ways,” she said. “The noise can be disruptive. Blast impulses can create smoke. Our safety concerns, of course there are munitions. The study recommends a height restriction as structures that are too tall can impact flight regulations and affect radars. Hazardous material—ordinance shipping is a concern.

“The security of the installation is essential to military operations,” she added.

More of the negatives, she suggested: The presence of endangered species can affect the military mission; the quality of water can be affected; recreational marine resources use may impact military operations around the water.

“There are a range of factors,” Hoschar stated.

“None of the concerns in our view was to a high level degree,” said Chris Jukubiak. “Moderate seems to be the concern level.

“As far as recommendations, we’re looking at not being interventional,” he noted. “We’re not changing the way land use zoning would be affected. This is more about collaboration. This is an opportunity to build on good land use planning in western Charles County.”

Jukubiak suggested agricultural land preservation around the Navy base to discourage encroachment, but assured citizens, “We are not aggressively acquiring property.
“But when there is a willing partner in the private sector, a match can be made,” he added.

He said there need to be military outreach to the community, especially when testing is happening, to alert recreational boaters to be aware of explosions and other noise events.

Business and economic development is essential.

“It has been thought about that a strong Indian Head is compatible with and essential for a strong military presence on the base,” Jukubiak said. “They are linked together. They grew up together.”

“I’m concerned about encroachment issues,” Bonnie Bick told Kubiak and Hoschar. “I have a number of concerns. Development in Bryans Road sucks energy away from redevelopment in Indian Head. There used to be a grocery store here. Then Bryans Road put in a second grocery store and the store in Indian Head closed. The people of Bryans Road do not want Bryans Road to be a major town center. They want it to be a village. I agree with the findings that it is very important to have the Town of Indian Head be vibrant.”

Bick said she was concerned about the county’s having placed the Mulberry area in Tier Three, a major subdivision with one unit per three acres, right across from NSWC which she said would be detrimental to the base.

“I think all those are valid concerns,” Jukubiak stated. “Your analysis is right on. It’s been clear to us that a healthy vibrant town is vital to support a healthy Indian Head. The aquifer is something we should address.

“The mulberry area, what you’re saying is that a big chunk of it is within the outer edge of the noise contour zone on a moderate level and that area allows for a subdivision and would introduce more population in an area that would be impacted by noise,” he added. “It ought to be Tier 4 in the comprehensive plan. What we’ve suggested is for that area to be targeted for increased land preservation.”

Francis Gray Bear of the Piscataway Indians said his people want to be contacted and brought into the conversation.

“We would like to be part of this group,” he said. “As time has progressed in this encroachment and development has occurred, digging up rural land, a lot of our ancestors have been brought to the surface. Those issues have not been truly addressed.”

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com