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Dunkirk retains minor town center designation


Prince Frederick, MD - The ongoing review of the currently proposed Calvert County Comprehensive Plan revision continued Wednesday evening, Nov. 14 at the monthly meeting of the county’s Planning Commission. The session was held at Calvert Pines Senior Center. A major segment of the plan review involved the controversial proposal to change Dunkirk from a minor to a major town center.

Department of Planning and Zoning staff members defended the proposal. Long-range planner Jenny Plummer-Welker explained that the Dunkirk Town Center has the second-highest retail square footage of the county’s seven town centers, exceeded only by Prince Frederick. Plummer-Welker noted, however, that the town center boundaries do not contain a school, park or library nor is it served by public sewer. The latter component has been a contentious issue for at least a generation.

Department of Planning and Zoning Director Mark Willis stated that Dunkirk has the potential “to be one of the county’s major employment centers due to its proximity to the Washington, DC area. With significant commercial growth, we simply gave it an honest look. We are long-range planners.”

While all the residential areas in proximity to Dunkirk’s commercial locations are served by septic systems—as is one large, nearly 30-year-old shopping center—the town center’s newer commercial properties are serviced by privately owned and maintained sewer systems. What could prove to be a game-changer, however, would be a significant number of septic failures in the Dunkirk area. “You plan for it now or you plan for it later,” said Willis. “I’m sticking to my guns. You need to plan for water and sewer.”

Planning Commission Member Carolyn McHugh noted that, by definition, a minor town center may have public sewer. Another commission member, John Toohey, made the motion to designate Dunkirk as a minor town center in the current proposal. The motion drew some applause from the audience. The motion carried with two commission members—Dr. Richard Holler and Maria Buehler—voting opposed. Plummer-Welker said that all references to Dunkirk as a major town center will be revised in the plan as currently proposed.

Earlier during the meeting the panel approved an application for site plan review for the proposed Patriot Construction office building on West Ward Road in Dunkirk. According to principal planner Rachel O’Shea, the two-story building will include 13,366 square feet of “non-medical office space.” It’s to be built on a 1.69-acre tract. Due to the number of jobs the office building will include, the county’s Department of Economic Development has designated the project as a "fast-track."

Last month the Patriot Construction project was granted a special exception by the Calvert Board of Appeals. The exception was needed due to the project’s proximity to a residential area. Project agent Dan Kelsh of Collinson, Oliff and Associates was requesting that the planned construction of a sidewalk on the parcel running parallel to Ferry Landing Road not be immediately required since it wasn’t presently needed and would require Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. “It doesn’t provide a benefit to the community,” said Kelsh, noting that the tract to the east does not have a sidewalk along Ferry Landing Road. The fact that the previously planned sidewalk would dead-end at his client’s tract would create an unsafe route for pedestrians and bicyclists up and down Ferry Landing Road. To allay concerns that the developer might not be willing to construct the sidewalk should be become necessary, Kelsh said a bond could be posted for one year to see if it’s needed.

O’Shea told the Planning Commission that the county’s Department of Public Works believes sidewalks within the Dunkirk Town Center will be necessary in the future.
Planning Commission Member Steve Jones moved to approve the application with conditions, adding that the one-year bond be posted for a future inclusion of a sidewalk should be a stipulation. The motion carried with Toohey opposed.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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