Rural plans await commissioners’ nod

Projects stall until county looks at law

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Charles County Planning Commission is sticking to its guns about not considering any more rezoning requests in the county’s deferred development district until the law that established the district eight years ago is better defined.

The planning commission voted 4-3 to recommend that the Charles County commissioners deny Creek Side Properties LLC’s request to restore the underlying low-density residential zoning on a 25-acre parcel next to the Hunter’s Brooke subdivision off Route 225 in Mason Springs until the county can re-examine the law that created the deferred development district to ensure that its intention is to protect the Mattawoman Creek watershed.

The rural conservation-deferred district was adopted by the county commissioners in 2000 to prevent ‘‘leapfrog” development — that bypasses established residential areas in favor of more rural settings — and protect the environmental features of the Mattawoman Creek watershed, said Roger Fink, county attorney. The commissioners reserved the right to re-examine the law every five years to see if some of the district should revert back to its base zoning as infrastructure became available.

Sue Davis of Creek Side Properties told the planning commission during a public hearing a couple of weeks ago that she wanted to restore an old farmhouse built in 1910 by a Scottish carpenter on the property and build about 12 new homes on the land. The homes would reflect historic features of houses that no longer stand in Charles County, according to Davis.

Another local developer, Pomfret LLC, is also asking the county to restore the underlying low-density residential zoning of a 974-acre tract in the deferred development district at the intersection of Pomfret and Marshal Corner Road. The developer proposes to build 600 houses, tennis courts, swimming pools and ball fields in the Green Spring community.

The planning commission voted recently that the county commissioners should also deny that request, stating that the law needs to be clarified to ensure the Mattawoman Creek watershed is protected.

Planning commission members Lou Grasso, Bob Mitchell and Gail Manuel voted to recommend that the county commissioners approve the request.

Ray Detig, planning commission chairman, and members Stephen Bunker, Joseph Richard and H. Duncan Creelman voted to deny the request.

‘‘This law was created to prevent leapfrog development in the district,” Grasso said, adding that the Creek Side parcel has access to public water and sewer that services the Hunter’s Brook subdivision. ‘‘This proposal comports with the purpose of the law ... and I believe that the [developer] plans to protect the areas in the Mattawoman Creek watershed.”

‘‘Two weeks ago we made a recommendation to the county commissioners to not restore the base zoning of another property in the deferred development district,” Creelman said. ‘‘We asked the county commissioners ... to take a look at the whole issue. I want to wait for that so we don’t send mixed signals to the commissioners.”

‘‘Because of the size of this project it isn’t as great a threat as the Green Spring project, but we’re going down a slippery slope if we approve this,” Bunker said. ‘‘The development district was created for a reason. We’re going to see a flood of these types of requests, and we’re going to lose the deferred development district.”

‘‘The issue is do we open up the deferred development district,” Richard said. ‘‘We should not do that until the county commissioners can re-examine the issue.”

The county commissioners will hold a public hearing and work session before making a decision on the request.