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Opposition Mounts Against Heavy Industrial Zoning In Rural Area of Mechanicsville

MECHANICSVILLE, Md. - The St. Mary's County Planning Commission is holding a public hearing at 6:30 pm on April 12 to solicit input on a proposal to rezone 619 acres. The applicant argues that a mistake was make in the county's last comprehensive zoning update and that the property located on the west of Three Notch Road just south of Friendship School Road should have been zoned industrial. Currently zoned rural preservation district (RPD), the property sits at the headwaters of McIntosh Run which is considered a state special area of concern due to endangered species and its diversity.

"Tom Swamp Run drains a good deal of this property and is host to one of the most diverse animal communities of any coastal streams in Maryland," said Bob Lewis, executive director of the St. Mary's River Watershed Association. "We get requests from lab technicians working in Maryland's biological stream assessment program to send them benthic samples from this stream because there are macroinvertibrates that they do not see anywhere else."

The Association is in opposition to the rezoning for a number of reasons. First, this area has the healthiest streams in all of southern Maryland and a large industrial operation will threaten the ecosystem. Second, up zoning a large parcel in the RPD will set an example for this type of proposal nearly anywhere in the county. Do we want industrial operations next to our homes?

The applicant's claim of a mistake in zoning is alarming as well. This property was discussed and its zoning was kept RPD during the county's last comprehensive zoning. Under state law, properties can only change zoning during a comprehensive zoning (which requires multiple hearings and a 60-day review period) or if a mistake has been made in the mapping of the parcel's zoning. And any claim by the applicant that the property cannot be developed due to environmental hazards on the site and that poses a denial of property rights, is also incorrect. The current property owner and the applicant were well aware of the property's limitations long ago and they still chose to attempt a type of development that is incompatible with the neighborhood and the environment. Due to ordinance on the site and possible other environmental contaminants resulting from the former munitions plant owned by Thiocol Corporation. Thiocol abandoned the property in the 1980s razing all building and the property has since sold twice in 1999 and again in 2006.

The current zoning on the property allows for agriculture and silverculture. Residential housing is discouraged unless an extensive and very expensive clean up occurs first. This property could also be considered for a solar farm although trees would have to be cut down. Public water and sewer are not available.

The public can file testimony via email to Courtney.Jenkins@stmarysmd.com. Other options to testify directly include calling in or sending in a video. A fourth option is to sign on to the petition being circulated by the Friends of St. Clements Bay.

For more information, contact Kathy Garcia at Kathy.Garcia@stmarysmd.com - you can request an electronic package about this proposal.

SIGN THE PETITION

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