Changes Needed to the Comprehensive Plan

Calvert County citizens love Calvert County and are interested in seeing it growing sustainably in a way that protects our ecosystem, promotes healthy communities for all residents, and provides suitable jobs for our residents and the creation of a strong economy. There is a great deal that is good in the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan approved by the Planning Commission, including its goals and visions. However, there are also major shortcomings.

There is still the potential to have an acceptable Comprehensive Plan. It can be fixed if the Board of County Commissioners addresses a half a dozen key shortcomings that could otherwise adversely affect our quality of life:

1. The Plan should strengthen its position on land preservation. The Plan states that rural character and rural economies are a key to the future of Calvert County but the only actions it calls for will weaken the highly successful land preservation program.  It should improve the opportunities to transfer development rights and re-commit to the purchase of development rights as begun in 1999.

2. The Plan actions should not allow privately funded community sewage treatment facilities to serve commercial, industrial, and employment uses outside town centers and residential areas and privately funded sewer lines to increase residential development outside town centers as the County will be responsible for them if they fail. Both actions promote sprawl and put the county at financial risk.

3.  The plan should provide more direction on making commercially vibrant and pleasing towns and should not show any expansion to town centers and to residential zoned areas until it is determined that the county road network and aquifers can accommodate the growth.

4. The Plan should promote sustainable development by continuing to link the amount, location and rate of residential growth to County land use objectives, including highway, school, water quality and aquifer capacities, rural character, and monitoring residential growth and the effectiveness of existing regulations to control growth.

5. The Plan should restore the water quality standards for fresh and salt water and should restore level of service standards for roads.

6. The plan should oppose a bay bridge crossing from Calvert County. Because Calvert only has one main highway, bridge traffic would have a huge negative impact on quality of life. We are grateful that Board of County Commissioner members have informally expressed a willingness to take a close look at the Planning Commission’s Plan and consider changes.

The following Sustainable Calvert Network members support this letter and proposed changes: American Chestnut Land Trust, Calvert County Farm Bureau, Calvert County Historical Society, Calvert Eats Local, Cove Point Natural Heritage Trust, Southern Calvert Land Trust, and the Southern Maryland Sierra Club

Proposed Changes

Additions are in bold and deletions are lined through

Chapter 3

Goal 1: Preserve the rural character of the county, its prime farmland, contiguous forests, cultural resources, and environmentally sensitive areas.

Objective 1: Reserve the Farm and Forest District for farming and natural resource-related uses.

  •  Continue to fund the Purchase and Retirement (PAR) and Leveraging and Retirement (LAR) Programs. [BOCC]
  •  Establish a procedure for collecting voluntary contributions to the PAR fund with payment of property tax. [P&Z, F&B]
  •  Provide local support to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program and other state and federal agricultural preservation programs. [P&Z]
  •  Continue to support the goal of permanently preserving a minimum of 40,000 acres of prime farm and forestland through county, state, and federal land preservation programs and land trusts. [BOCC, Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board (APAB), P&Z]
  •  Continue to limit the types of public and quasi-public uses in the Farm and Forest District based upon their purpose and intensity. [BOCC, P&Z]
  • Periodically review and update the Calvert County Growth Tier Map. [BOCC, PC, and P&Z]
  • “Do not increase highway capacity within the Farm and Forest District.”
  • “Continue to look for ways to direct residential growth away from the Farm and Forest District.”[1]

Goal 2: Use water and sewer policies to direct growth consistent with land use policies.

Objective 1: Make provisions for water and sewer service in Growth Areas consistent with the planned land uses and intensity.

  •  Consider options for public financial support for provision of public water and sewer facilities in the Prince Frederick, Lusby, and Solomons Town Centers to promote economic development, encourage multi-family housing opportunities, and protect public health. [BOCC, P&Z, PW, F&B]
  •  Consider allowing developer-funded extension of public water and sewer systems into the Residential Areas around Prince Frederick, Lusby, and Solomons. [BOCC, PW, P&Z]
  •  Allow privately-funded community sewage treatment facilities to serve commercial, industrial and employment uses located outside Town Centers and Residential Areas, consistent with economic development goals. [BOCC, PW, P&Z]  [2]

Goal 3: Develop Town Centers as attractive, convenient, and interesting places to live, work, and shop.

Objective 1: Continue to promote a broad mix of commercial, office, residential, public, and quasi-public development within Town Centers.

  • Promote Town Centers as community cultural and activity centers by locating schools, colleges, recreational, and cultural facilities there. [BOCC, GS, P&R, BOE]
  • Facilitate the creation of farmers markets in all Town Centers. [ED, P&Z]
  • Consider ways to strengthen regulations regarding derelict buildings. [P&Z, County Attorney’s Office (CAO), BOCC]
  • Allow the use of TDRs to increase the density and range of housing types provided in Town Centers. [BOCC, P&Z]
  • Allow uses that serve both local residents and employees to locate in employment areas. [BOCC, P&Z]
  • Consider the use of inclusionary zoning as a means of providing workforce housing in major town centers.[3]

Objective 2: Review the Transfer of Development Rights Program so that it directs the majority of growth to Growth Areas.

  •  Evaluate the use of TDRs within the Farm and Forest areas and the Rural Residential areas, but insure that if their use is restricted, that landowners with TDRs have equal alternative markets elsewhere, including the increased use of the PAR Fund or LAR Fund. [P&Z, APAB]
  •  Explore the use of TDRs to increase commercial intensity in Town Centers. [BOCC, P&Z, ED, APAB]
  •  Evaluate Fund and administer the Purchase and Retirement Program for development rights with fees collected  from the Recordation Tax, as originally intended. 
  •  [P&Z, APAB, F&B] [4]
  •  Evaluate the policy of using Require the use of TDRs to increase density in the event any property is rezoned to Residential District beyond the zoning in 2018 [5][P&Z, PC, BOCC]

Objective 3: Ensure that Town Center Master Plans are updated on a periodic basis.

  • Review and update the Town Center Master Plans to reflect the policies of the Calvert 2040 Plan. [BOCC, PC, P&Z]
  • Maintain a schedule to review and update Town Center Master Plan. [BOCC, PC, P&Z]
  • Use the Prince Frederick Charrette Report as a basis for updating the Prince Frederick Town Center Master Plan. [BOCC, PC, P&Z]
  • Review Town Center Master Plans to look for additional ways to reduce dependence upon automobiles by promoting “pedestrian-friendly” site design and increasing pedestrian and bicycle circulation within and between residential, commercial, and office uses. [P&Z, PW]
  • Continue to improve the appearance of Town Centers by emphasizing Town Center Master Plan Capital Improvements Projects and Architectural Review. [BOCC, PC, P&Z, Architectural Review Committees (ARCs), GS, PW] As Master Plans are updated, look for ways to preserve and enhance the unique character of each Town Center. [PC, P&Z, ARCs, HDC]
  • Support public art and provide small parks and other public amenities in town centers. Consider the creation of an Arts and Entertainment District in the Major Town Centers.[6]

Objective 5:  Promote sustainable development[7]

  •“Continue to support policies that link the amount, location and rate of residential growth to County land use objectives, including highway, school, water quality and aquifer capacities.”
  •“Monitor residential growth and evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations to meet growth management objectives.”
  • Do not expand town centers or rezone additional residential lands until it is determined that the county road network and aquifers can accommodate the growth
  • Require in the county’s adequate facilities regulations that schools, roads, and water and sewer are in place, or programmed to be in place according to the CIP, before a subdivision or site plan is granted final approval.
  • Maintain the following standards in the Zoning Ordinance: that adequacy for roads means a level of service “D” is attained on MD 2/4 and on Town Center roads.
  • A level of service “C” is maintained on County roads and outside Town Centers.
  • Adequacy for water and sewer is no more that 80% of the capacity of the system.
  •  Continue the goal of limiting residential buildout to 37,000 households

Chapter 4

Watershed Management (before the Patuxent River Policy Plan on page 4-8)

The Plan philosophy is that not all subwatersheds are the same. There should be different goals for urban subwatersheds and rural subwatersheds.

Within the urban subwatersheds (>10% impervious surfaces) maintain ‘fishable/swimmable’ status and seek to achieve quantifiable water quality goals. Physical conditions in some subwatersheds could make these goals unachievable, though achievable over the entire watershed. Freshwater criteria in streams should also consider the potential loading of nutrients or sediments over time in addition measured concentration goals.[8]

Goal 2: Continue a comprehensive approach to environmental planning with special emphasis on watershed planning.

Objective 1: Create, adopt and update watershed plans for each major watershed in the county.

  • Develop guidelines addressing the content and public involvement process for preparing watershed plans. [P&Z]
  • Establish budgets, a schedule and track the preparation and completion of watershed plans. [P&Z]
  • Maintain the following standards for good water quality:

Thresholds for fresh water:

  • <0.71 milligrams of nitrogen per liter
  • <0.031 milligrams of phosphorus per liter 6
  • <10 Nephelometric turbity units (NTUs) of turbidity

Thresholds for tidal water:

  • Chlorophyll <10 micrograms per liter of water (April-October)

  • Secchi Depth measurements > 1 meter (in waters deeper than 1 meter, April- October)
  • Oxygen levels: 4 mg/l for deep waters and 6 mg/l for surface waters.

Within the rural subwatersheds, achieve the urban subwatershed goals, plus the following:

•      Maintain or create anadromous fish spawning streams

•      Develop and maintain shellfish beds, with the goal of making them open to harvesting. [9]

Chapter 7

Goal 7: Strongly oppose any bay bridge crossing plan through Calvert County.

Objective 1: Inform state officials of the reasons that Calvert is uniquely not suited as a transportation route for such interstate traffic.

  • Report on Calvert’s transportation network reliant on one highway, Maryland 2/4, which would be clogged every weekend for summer months if one-third of the projected bay bridge traffic (135,000 trips per day) were re-directed to Calvert. Likewise, one-third of the projected weekday bay bridge traffic (84,000 trips per day) would overwhelm MD 4, which currently carries 32,000 trips per day in Dunkirk. All other counties have more than one major artery that serves their population.
  • Inform state officials about Calvert’s two major utilities and the need to have plenty of available carrying capacity on MD 4 in the event of a disaster at either facility.[10]

[1] Addresses shortcoming #1. According to a 2018 BEACON report, Calvert County’s rural landscapes generate over $100 million per year in the local economy. According to a 2017 representation by Dr. Elliott Campbell, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Calvert’s rural landscapes provide $228 million in Ecosystems Services (storm water mitigation, nutrient uptake, wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, air quality improvement, and carbon sequestration). County policies should discourage residential development of these valuable resources.

[2] Note:  Addresses shortcoming #2. The  above will promote sprawl are financially risky for the county.

[3]Addresses shortcoming #3. In healthy towns near cities, some type of incentives are required to be sure that our county’s workforce has the same opportunities for housing as commuters who are paid urban wages. Inclusionary zoning trades off higher residential density for the assurance that a percentage of houses will be priced at affordable rates.

[4]Addresses shortcoming #1.  In 1999, the Board of County Commissioners increased the recordation tax from $3.30 to $5.00 to provide a funding source for buying and retiring development rights. In the last few years, that money was diverted to the General Fund. This action would reverse that action.

[5] Addresses shortcoming #1. Since the adoption of the county’s land preservation program in 1978, there have been no residential rezonings. The realization was that if added density could happen just by applying for a zoning change, there would be no value in a development right in a County Agricultural Preservation District.  Allowing increased residential density in any area of the county, particularly outside town centers, weakens the counties Transferable Development Rights Program and the development of town centers.

[6] Addresses shortcoming #3. Successful towns do everything they can to provide amenities and experiences that Amazon and chain stores cannot provide. Public amenities and the arts provide them that edge.

[7] Addresses shortcoming #4. The following actions were in the 2010 plan. They are essential to promote orderly sustainable growth that does not diminish quality of life.

[8] Addresses shortcoming #5. This wording is in the current 2010 plan and it still makes sense. Not all watersheds are the same, and the goals should represent reasonable expectations.

[9] Addresses shortcoming #5. These are the current standards in the 2010 Plan. How can we know the status of the watershed if we don’t know the standards for good water quality?

[10] Addresses shortcoming #6. With a Bay Bridge in Calvert County, our travel plans would always be impacted by the Bay Bridge traffic. In addition, if there is an incident at either the BGE facility or the Dominion facility, our lives could be at risk, particularly if the incident occurs, and an evacuation is called, during a busy Bay traffic weekend.