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The Future of St. Mary's County

In conjunction with the proposed Comprehensive Plan for St. Mary's County, the planning commission is holding a series of public hearings to gather community feedback.  The second of three meetings was held Monday, July 13 at Chopticon High School. 

The broad scope of this plan details how the county will be shaped over the next several years.  Derick Berlage, Land Use and Growth Management Director, calls the plan "our vision for our future".  Previously adopted in 2002, the plan is being given what Berlage calls "a fine tuning" to better represent the current needs and concerns of SMC residents.

The county's population has met the 100,000 mark and continues to grow, raising the demand for affordable housing, schools and better roads. The planning commission must also consider the state's "Smart Growth" initiative which intends to curb the urban sprawl and leave more rural lands undeveloped.

Board of Commissioners President, Jack Russell, welcomes the citizen contributions, saying, "Each of us is an important stakeholder who helps shape the landscape of our county." 

Planning Commission Chairman, Stephen T. Reeves, opened the floor to SMC residents who were given roughly three minutes to express their concerns and ask questions about the plan. 

Those comments will become discussion topics as the plan gets hammered out in the coming months. LUGM Senior Planner, Jeff Jackman indicated that those involved in county planning have a busy schedule ahead of them.

Many speakers revealed concerns about investment losses due to new zoning changes, a lack of protection for farm land, and the need for improved access to efficient utility, water and sewer lines.  While most seem to agree that preservation of the county's rural character is critical, some were upset by the limitations the new plan places on them as land and business owners. Residents representing Wildewood, New Market/Mechanicsville, Clements, Bushwood and St. Inigoes drew attention to potentially negative impacts on their areas.

Thirteen homeowners from the Myrtle Point Peninsula attended the hearing and asked the commission to remove their area from the Lexington Park Development District.  Citing the proximity to critical water and environmentally sensitive areas, residents argued against the intense development that the proposed zoning would bring.  Debby Shields, who spoke on behalf of and submitted a letter from Myrtle Point homeowners which said, "revising current zoning would show the county’s commitment to proper management of the Critical Area, and to preserving our county’s precious waterways and established neighborhoods".   Other residents discussed the congested roadways between the Thomas Johnson Bridge and the Rt. 4/235 Intersection, saying further residential development would only worsen the situation. 

The biggest developmental push lies in the Lexington Park area where the plan intends to funnel a large portion of residential and commercial projects, creating a more urban character.  With rehabilitation activities already underway and new businesses and neighborhoods popping up rapidly, residents can expect heavy growth in that part of the county.

The planning commission has scheduled a third public hearing for 6:30 p.m. July 27 at the Chesapeake Building in Leonardtown.  To view the full, proposed Comprehensive Plan and to see how individual communities will be affected, check out: http://www.co.saint-marys.md.us/lugm/docs/DraftComp%20Plan4-13-09.pdf

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