On June 24th, the Planning Commission will meet to discuss the status of and review draft chapters of Environment and Community Facilities as part of the Comprehensive Plan update. CRC has submitted the following letter to the Commissioners. We encourage you to provide the Commissioners your thoughts on the County’s future. https://www.qacplan2021.com/get-involved
Planning Commission Members
We appreciate the opportunity to make the following recommendations and comments on the 2021 update to the Queen Anne’s County Comprehensive Plan. We would be happy to elaborate on any and all at your convenience.
The 2010 plan’s “Overall Community Vision” would be difficult to improve upon. Comments made during the various public sessions to date seem to strongly reflect this belief and the desire to see that Vision realized. The 2021 Update should focus on implementation of that vision. This should include identification and application of better measures and management tools for key county processes that significantly affect that vision on an ongoing basis. These can take the shape of planning factors and decision criteria that can be consistently used by the Planning Commission, County Commissioners, Appeals Board, and staff in decisionmaking and application of code.
Land use decisions are key to attaining and maintaining the Vision. For example, keeping QAC a “predominantly rural county with small towns connected by creeks and county roads through fields and forests” will be a function of decisions determining how much more land is developed and how it is developed. Land use decisions should be made based on how they impact the vision in a measurable way. Furthermore, they should be made with specific targets in mind. Here are some targets worth adopting: Keep the land bordering Rt. 301 rural and scenic; Assure that agricultural lands remain no less than a certain percentage of total acreage; Work to protect at least 50 percent of agricultural and forested lands; and Assure that there is no net loss of forested lands.
The County has a limited amount of Growth Allocation to use in making decisions about land in the Critical Area. It represents a very limited flexibility to deal with exceptional needs that may compromise Critical Area buffers. The decisionmaking process for use of Growth Allocation should be explicit and based on clear, consistent criteria that give priority to public vs private needs and that fully value the worth of such allocations.
Climate change, sea level rise and restoration of our Bay and rivers make improved stormwater management a paramount concern. The continued expansion of impervious surface directly degrades the ability to manage stormwater most effectively. Moreover, science has shown that the percentage of impervious surface in each watershed directly affects the health of our precious waterways and all that live within. These watershed resources seriously degrade at 5 to 10 percent impervious, beyond which restoration is highly improbable. Many of the County’s watersheds are perilously near or in this target zone or already beyond it. QAC should regularly monitor impervious surface by watershed, identify the extent to which each proposed development would increase impervious surface, and make decisions to keep below the target percentage for the respective watersheds.
The Comprehensive Plan should be by definition, comprehensive. Yet our chartered towns and to a lesser extent, communities, have separate plans that may operate outside of the QAC Plan. But the QAC plan’s Vision is supported by citizens throughout the County. There needs to be a tighter coherence between these plans if the Vision is to be maintained effectively. County and Town officials, along with community representatives should reassess the key interrelationships and dependencies within their plans as they directly affect the Vision and make necessary changes and connections to maintain the Vision.
The above recommendations are made on the basis of our review of the 2010 Plan, participation in the public sessions for the 2021 Update and from discussions with County staff. However, we have not seen the environmental or land use Update proposals that may have been made to you by the County and Wallace Montgomery. Nor have we been given access to any updated impervious surface or land use data beyond 2016. We look forward to getting the benefit of that information, along with the most recent Comprehensive Plan Annual Report. The recommendations we make here largely focus on QAC’s watersheds, agricultural lands and other natural resources. Perhaps they will be seen by some as threats to the County’s economic vitality. Far from that, we see these recommendations as key measures to preserve the character and natural resources which make our County so attractive a place to live and play, as well as the legacy they represent for future generations.. The economic benefits of preserving our farms, the rural, scenic character that comes along with that, and the vitality of our watersheds should be abundantly clear. QAC agriculture geographically occupies a critical and strategic location on the East coast. Virtually every part of the Comprehensive Plan impacts these essential resources and vice versa. They should be treated as such.
Frank DiGialleonardo, President
Corsica River Conservancy
2010 plan’s Overall Community Vision
“A predominantly rural county with small towns connected by creeks and county roads through fields and forest – a great place to live;
A county that encourages agriculture, seafood and maritime industries, tourism and outdoor sports, small business and high tech enterprise – a good place to work;
A county that is a faithful steward of its natural and cultural heritage – a good neighbor for the Bay and other Eastern Shore counties;
A county in which development does not impair the quality of life enjoyed by all– a community that protects the expectations and opportunities of all its citizens.
A county that supports the highest quality of education that seeks to fully prepare its citizens for the future.“