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Final Call for Community Response to the County's Comprehensive Plan

The third and final public hearing regarding the proposed St. Mary's County Comprehensive Plan was held July 27 at the Chesapeake Building in Leonardtown. Planning Commission Chairman, Steve Reeves informed the public that written submissions will be accepted until August 7. 

Land Use and Growth Management Director, Derick Berlage gave an overview of what he called "the community's plan", which detailed the visions for St. Mary's County. The plan strives to preserve the rural aesthetic by channeling the bulk of development into targeted growth areas. Berlage pointed out that the Board of County Commissioners policy has worked well within the past year with 80 percent of development occurring in those areas.

There were many speakers from the Myrtle Point Peninsula who asked the board to consider, again, removing the area from the Lexington Park Development Plan. Speakers detailed their concerns about threats to critical areas, one calling them ‘very delicate’ and demanded answers if the zoning change is not implemented.

Representing the hotel industry, Patrick Welton commented that leisure and waterfront development is necessary for successful tourism in the area. The one pro-development speaker from the Myrtle Point suggested creating recreation areas for those in the county that do not live on the water.

Several spoke out of concern for the retention of village centers in Chaptico and Clements, worried that rezoning will affect the growth and commerce in those areas. One Chaptico area landowner called himself an "advocate for village planning," while William H. Guy of Clements, a fourth generation land and business owner urged the board to refrain from downsizing, keeping the village centers as they are and allowing for future growth.

President Daniel Grant and Vice President Lauren Klatt of the Young Professionals Initiative spoke to the board, voicing concerns for the 19 to 40 age demographic that is expected to increase steadily with population growth. YPI brought up the lack of affordable housing and the loss of money due to young people travelling outside of the county for recreation. Grant suggested the county think about how to attract young professionals and keep them here.

Roberta Sola of Park Hall spoke on behalf of approximately 25 families, going on record that residents of the area are not happy about future developments and hope to be well-informed and included in decisions. She said, "Our vision for our community is to keep it rural."

Mechanicsville resident, Ken Carkhuff brought attention to the increasingly busy corridors of the county and the increase in fatal accidents. Carkuff promoted the preservation of the Amish way of life and accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians throughout the county.

After the public hearing, the commission resumed its regularly scheduled meeting. The commission approved four items before ending the meeting. Four scheduled work sessions in August are planned for the commission, which Reeves said, “[will] enable us to reach a final recommendation in September."

For more information on the Comprehensive Plan, check out http://www.co.saint-marys.md.us/lugm/lugmtemplate.asp?content=comprehensiveplanningcontent.asp. Comments may be submitted to the Planning Commission, c/o Land Use and Growth Management Dept, P.O. Box, Leonardtown, MD 20650 before August 7.

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