Review of New Lex. Park Master Plan Delayed - Southern Maryland Headline News

Review of New Lex. Park Master Plan Delayed


By Guy Leonard, St. Mary's County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—The long awaited Lexington Park Development District Master Plan is finally completed and has some major proposed changes, including rezoning properties to allow light industrial work to continue closer to Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

While the plan has been available to the Commissioners of St. Marys’ County for more than a month — it was provided by the county’s planning commission Aug. 1 — they are not planning to review it for comment or change until after Oct. 1.

“We had a mandate to get it in by a certain date and we did that,” said planning commission chairman Howard Thompson. “We wanted to be able to get some light manufacturing closer to the base since contractors are moving in that direction. They should be able to do that and not have to go up to Hollywood or California.”

This review of the Lexington Park master plan will be like no other since a new state law that takes effect next month allows local leaders to revise on their own the contents of the plan.

Prior to this state law mandated that county commissioners could only approve or deny the plan in its entirety.

HB 919 passed the state legislature earlier this year and was approved by Gov. Larry Hogan; it’s effective data is Oct. 1.

Commissioner President James “Randy” Guy said he was not aware of any such law and it did not have any bearing on the commissioners waiting until October to examine the plan.

Rather they were waiting for more information from navy officials about a study of the aircraft installation compatible use zone (AICUZ) that restricts development so as to minimize safety hazards to civilians near the navy base should an accident occur.

“I have not really gone through the plan,” Guy said. “I have no reason to delay it, personally.”

Commissioner Todd Morgan, whose home district the plan directly effects, said he had confidence in the plan as presented and that it should not be for the commissioners to modify.

“In reviewing what the planning commission has spent the last two or three years doing, I’m an advocate of an up or down vote,” Morgan told The County Times. “We’re not planners… we need to govern, not manage.

“I think they did a comprehensive job, I think they did a great job.”

Morgan said that the planning commission’s work took special note of RLT, or transitional zoning areas that allow for flexibility in providing for future growth in the county’s largest development district.

The proposed plan also minimized the level of encroachment possible into the aircraft operations at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

Morgan said that he might not agree with every aspect of the plan but that as a whole it was a significant achievement.

“We have to be pragmatic enough to move forward,” Morgan said. “It’s worthy of an up or down vote.”

Phil Shire, director of the Department of Land Use and Growth Management, said the plan divides the development district into three basic areas — north, south and central — as focus areas.

Of those three areas the central one, with Chancellors Run Road as a key element, was recommended as the one most important.

“If the county sees fit to invest money in new [road] infrastructure that is where we recommend it be focused,” Shire said.

The central focus area, with its many smaller roads could work well together with new roads in the heart of the development district to foster great development and greater connectivity as well.

FDR Boulevard, once completed, he said, is already set to intersect Chancellors Run Road and help relieve traffic off of Route 235.

“We’re not saying the north and south areas should be ignored,” said Senior Planner Jeff Jackman. “We just need to make sure we get the circulation moving [in the central area] so we can keep the downtown of Lexington Park viable.”

Even if revitalization of the aging area does not happen in the very near future, he said, it was important to keep the traffic and commercial interests there vibrant enough to support such revitalization when the opportunity arises.

The plan also recommends giving a more town-like, structured feel to Lexington Park with mixed use development, landscaped streets complete with sidewalks and bikeways and small, neighborhood parks.

The last time the county approved a master plan for Lexington Park was in 2005, with an update in 2008 that consisted of changes to just one parcel of land, Jackman said.

The draft plan is available on line at www.stmarysmd.com.

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