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BOCC Responds to Comprehensive Plan Concerns

Prince Frederick, MD – August 1, 2019 – The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a public hearing Tuesday, July 23 at 5 p.m. to consider and receive comments on the adoption of the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan. In response to concerns raised, the BOCC held a work session on July 30, 2019, to respond, outlining clarification on six areas:

1. This is what we heard: The plan creates an environment for rapid growth

• The Town Center concept began as a means to protect rural character was articulated in the first Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 1967; then developed into a policy in the 1983 plan that has continued through all subsequent plans, including this proposal.

• The Town Center concept was originally planned to prevent sprawl outside of the Town Centers and to protect rural heritage.

• The new plan continues to support directing growth to Town Centers, consistent with the original vision of the first plan.

• Adequate Public Facilities (APF) is a legislative method to tie public infrastructure to growth. APF ties development approvals to the adequacy of existing public facilities, such as roads, schools, fire and police, and water and sewer systems. If the proposed development overwhelms capacity of these facilities, then it cannot be approved until the facilities are expanded or improved.

• Provisions for APF are in place and will remain.

• The Commissioners instructed staff to further enhance APF by adding new requirements including: water, sewer, storm water, roads, schools, law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services.

• The state Agricultural Preservation Sustainable Growth Act – also known as Tier Mapping – prevents new residential subdivisions served by on-site sewer disposal.

2. This is what we heard: The Comprehensive Plan supersedes Town Center Master Plans

• Updates to Town Center Master Plans occur after adoption of the Comprehensive Plan and will follow a public process to gain input.

• Town Center Master Plans will remain in place and their unique vision will remain the same.

• Land use changes within the Town Centers cannot occur until the Town Center Master Plans and Zoning Ordinances are updated.

3.  This is what we heard: “Super big box” stores are automatically approved with the new Comprehensive Plan.

• Big box stores are not approved by the new Comprehensive Plan.

• Big box stores are regulated in the Zoning Ordinance, not the Comprehensive Plan.

• Per the Zoning Ordinance, the standard in Town Centers is 25,000 square feet.

• Exceptions: Zoning allows up to a 150,000-square-foot building ONLY in the New Town District of Prince Frederick, 950 feet away from Route 4.

• A 75,000-square-foot building is allowed in Dunkirk Town Center.
4. This is what we heard: The Comprehensive Plan draft eliminates all growth controls.

• The new plan continues to direct growth to Town Centers, consistent with the original vision of the first Comprehensive Plan in 1967.

• Adequate public facilities criteria in the draft plan prevent the elimination of growth controls.

• The State Agricultural Preservation Sustainable Growth Act prevents new major residential subdivisions (more than 7 lots) served by on-site sewer disposal in the rural areas, also known as Tier Mapping.

• Growth control measures remain in place through adequate public facilities criteria, zoning and the tier program created by the State Agricultural Preservation and Sustainable Growth Act, also known as Tier Mapping.

• The 1967 Comprehensive Plan recommended cluster development that became the Town Center concept model adopted 1983, which aimed to direct higher-density residential growth away from farms and rural areas. This draft Comprehensive Plans continues to support that vision.

5. This is what we heard: The Comprehensive Plan is eliminating residential buildout

• The Comprehensive Plan cannot legally establish a residential buildout cap.

• Residential buildout is a function of zoning.

• Zoning determines how many homes can be built in a designated area.

• Values stated in the Comprehensive Plan include preservation of rural landscape and the creation of vibrant Town Centers. The focus on preserving rural character has been in place since the first Comprehensive Plan published in 1967.

6. This is what we heard: The Comprehensive Plan expands the Town Centers.

• Most of the proposed Town Center expansions are within the one-mile radius in Prince Frederick.

• Expansion of the Prince Frederick Town Center will require amending the Town Center master plan and the zoning for the Town Center.

• Phase II does not occur until the plans are updated, as well as meeting future Adequate Public Facilities regulations considerations, including meeting established water, sewer, and public safety criteria.
The Board of County Commissioners’ path forward will incorporate the following:

• Require the Planning Commission to evaluate, biennially, the rate of growth of each Town Center and make zoning recommendations, if needed, to the Board of County Commissioners.

• Incorporate, by reference, the findings of the Transportation Plan update, the Historic Preservation Plan, the Water and Sewer Plan and the Land Preservation and Parks and Recreation Plan.

• Modify the adopting Ordinance to ensure Town Center Master Plans are not superseded by implications so that they may continue to carry forward their original themes.

For more information, contact the Calvert County Department of Communications & Media Relations at 410-535-2003 or email communications@calvertcountymd.gov.

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