DON’T KILL THE CALVERT COUNTY LAND PRESERVATION PROGRAM
Now is not the time to kill the Calvert County land preservation program with the adoption of a new Comprehensive Plan. The 2012 agricultural census brought good news for those looking for new life in Calvert’s ag economy. Acres of land in agriculture actually increased by 6,500 acres to 32,900 acres between 2007 and 2012, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture. The market value of agricultural products grew a whopping 175% and direct sales to consumers grew 91%.
The last number is very important because it shows that the local food movement is growing in Calvert and it has the potential to be the biggest factor in the future of agriculture here and all along the East Coast.
Therefore it came as no small surprise that the draft plan includes recommendations that weaken the land county land preservation program. These are as follows:
“Rural Residential (currently the Rural Community District)– These are rural areas dominated by existing large-lot residential development, typically 10 acres in size, with an average lot size of approximately five acres. The category allows recognition of existing small-scale neighborhood convenience retail and service uses as well as essential public services. The use of TDRs is counter to the idea of directing growth to Town Centers and Villages (emphasis added).” Page I-3
The problem with this wording is that 90% of all receiving areas for TDRs have been located in this zone. Therefore, if the recommendation is followed it would eliminate 90% of the future market for development rights. There were no discussions with the farming community before this was proposed nor do I think it came up at the Plan workshops.
Another question is that if TDRs are not used in this zone, then can developers create 5-acre lots without TDRS? The current base density is one house per 20 acres (Go to section 5-1.03 C.* of the Calvert County Zoning Ordinance for the current base density in that zoning district). Not requiring TDRs would actually encourage development in the Rural Residential areas rather than directing it to town centers and villages.
“Town Centers –Town Centers have a base density of three dwelling units per acres (emphasis added), which can be increased using TDRs to a density consistent with the approved Town Center Master Plan. These communities allow a wide variety of commercial and residential development. Future development is guided by a Town Center master plan. Each has nearby residential development, typically within a one- mile radius of the Town Center.” Page I-4
The problem with the first sentence is that it is not true. Currently, the base density is one dwelling unit per acre (see town center zoning ordinances ) If the wording remains, then the number of development rights needed is further reduced.
“Residential – This designation applies to the mapped areas within approximately one mile of a Town Center. The base permitted density in these areas is one dwelling unit per acre (emphasis added) with densities permitted to increase to four dwelling units per acre using TDRs and developer-funded provision of public water and sewer facilities.” Page I-4
Again, the problem with the second sentence is that it is not true. Currently, the base density is one dwelling unit per four acres (see section 5-1.04 D. of the Zoning Ordinance)*. If the wording remains, then the number of development rights needed is further reduced.
In the draft plan, Calvert’s Twin Goals are preserving the rural landscape and creating vibrant Town Centers and Villages. It is ironic that the net result of these changes will result in the virtual death of the County’s wildly successful transferable development rights program, which has preserved two-thirds of all that land thus far protected in Calvert County. That hardly seems to accomplish the goal of preserving the “rural landscape”.