Commissioners To Work On Planning, Land Use Issues At Conference

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Aug. 14, 2008)—As state government continues to formulate its overall plan to guide development throughout Maryland, leaders here say they will keep track of what the state’s intentions are, especially when it comes to retaining local planning and zoning authority.

“The whole Smart Growth 2 initiative that will come out of the legislature next year will be of interest,” said County Commissioner Thomas Mattingly (D-Leonardtown) of the upcoming Maryland Association Counties meeting next week. “We’re trying to monitor the resolutions that will come out of the committee so we can protect local zoning authority.

“That’s a major concern for all counties.”

State cabinet-level representatives from the Department of Planning have said that the statewide development plan won’t take away zoning decisions from counties like St. Mary’s but officials here remain cautious.

Mattingly said the state often has ways to influence development patterns other than through policy; sometimes counties had to bend to the state’s will to receive certain funding for construction or development projects.

Mattingly has said the original Smart Growth policy from the state encourages preservation of rural space and seeks to rein in urban sprawl, both good ideas, but also feels the state’s solutions do not always fit each jurisdiction’s plans.

For instance, the state wants to see one dwelling unit per 20 acres in rural areas, Mattingly said pointing out that St. Mary’s is currently using the one-house-on-fiveacre plan.

With the recent transfer of development rights initiative an additional five acres are preserved in the rural preservation district.

Only in the critical areas surrounding the Chesapeake Bay is the 20-acre zoning plan being used, he said.

“There’s more ways to accomplish [rural land preservation] than with the 20-acre zoning,” Mattingly said. “We’re trying to protect local land use.”

Commissioner President Francis “Jack” Russell, who will also attend the MACO conference in Ocean City, said a resurgence in state funding was vital to help preserve rural land.

“We’d like to discuss getting back some of that Project Open Space funding,” Russell said of a precipitous drop in funding from nearly $2 million about two years ago. “It hurts a growing county.” Another key issue will be negotiating the expansion of the county detention center visà-vis the sewage treatment plant in Leonardtown, whose progress has been delayed until 2014.

Officials in Leonardtown town government state that the town does not have the plant capacity to sustain the expansion of the overcrowded jail by several hundred beds to accommodate more prisoners.

Russell said they must also solve the problem of the expansion of the Marlay-Taylor facility that serves Lexington Park and other communities.

That project is designed to improve the treatment system and reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in water run-off, and then to use the highly treated water for spray irrigation.

The water would be suitable for that task, he said though not rated for drinking water, and would not make its way back into the Chesapeake Bay.

“That’s the one sure way we can meet this goal,” Russell said.

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