We’ve helped block
the spread of poorly
It’s not often we get to declare victory over
sprawl. But in one Maryland county, the
wishes of residents have won out over the
seemingly inexorable push of harmful development into rural areas.
In July, the Charles County Commissioners
adopted a new and progressive plan for county
growth for the next decade. The 3-2 vote
thwarted land speculators who for 10 years
have been lobbying the county government to
let them replace open spaces with subdivisions.
State and federal biologists had warned that
giving in to development pressure would kill
prized local rivers such as Mattawoman Creek,
Nanjemoy Creek, and Port Tobacco River.
The victory allows Charles County to retain
its rural character, rather than become simply another Washington, D.C., suburb. An
earlier draft of the plan would have turned a
small village in rural western Charles called
Bryans Road into a suburban satellite city
and would have permitted the bulldozing of
9,000 acres of mostly wooded land to make
way for dense housing developments.
Kudos for the victory go to thousands of Charles
County residents, and many CBF members,
who showed up time and time again at various
public meetings. They demanded a smarter
way to grow: reinvigorate existing cities in the
county such as Waldorf and La Plata rather
than destroy natural areas to build cul-de-sac
housing in the woods. Improve existing roads
rather than building new ones to nowhere. Use
tax dollars to improve the lives of Charles resi-
dents, not the bottom lines of builders.
Commissioners Peter Murphy, Ken Robinson,
and Amanda Stewart listened to the public’s
overwhelming desire to save Charles from
sprawl. The three provided the necessary
majority votes for a better Comprehensive Plan.
Among the many improvements in the new
plan, it scraps the idea of building an east-west
highway across the forested mid-section of the
county to promote growth. Instead, a hiking
and biking trail will be built. The plan also con-
serves ecologically rich acres previously slated
for industrial development near Bryans Road.
To celebrate the victory—representing years
of hard work—CBF and its local partners
threw a party. Suitably, the festivities were
held at Gray’s Beach on the banks of the
Mattawoman, a creek experts say is at a
biological tipping point, meaning any more
nearby development could destroy it. The
Mattawoman has been known as one of the
best spawning areas for migratory fish in the
Chesapeake and a popular bass fishing area.
Protecting and implementing this smarter
vision for growth will require vigilance and
persistence, but today is a time to celebrate.
In at least one pocket of the Bay, we’ve helped
block the spread of poorly planned growth
and the costs that come with it. We’ve
decided to stop adding more water pollution
that is a byproduct of sprawl and to focus on
cleaning up the mess left behind by decades
of past growth.
Common sense has won in Charles County.
U For more on CBF’s efforts in Maryland, visit
CBF and our partners came together to thank our many advocates who helped pressure Charles County Commissioners
into adopting an environmentally friendly comprehensive plan.