The Maryland State Health Department has given Charles County officials 90 days to reach an agreement on the sale of sewage capactiy from its regional treatment plant to Prince George's County or face a building moratorium.
The ultimatum comes in the wake of Charles County's refusal a month ago to sell any of the Mattawoman sewage treatment plant's capacity to Prince George's. Both counties are trying to develop regional shopping centers to serve a southern Maryland market that is not big enough for two major malls.
Negotiations with Prince George's broke off suddenly in September after the release of the Prince George's zoning examiner's report linking the availability of the Mattawoman's sewage capacity to the Mattawoman-new town proposed in Brandywine. Reasoning for the initial development of the new town, to be built in stages and to be completed by the year 2000, was approved recently by the prince George's County Council.
Although William B. Amonett, former chariman of the Prince George's County Council, says the county has reserved commercial and industrial sewage capacity in the county's Piscataway sewage treatment plant, which could serve the initial development approved by the Council for Brandly wine, he considers the Mattawoman plant the long-range answer to growth in the Mattawoman basin in Prince George's County.
"Piscataway is a temporary answer," Amonett said. "But the fact is in our eyes, our zoning actions in the Mattawoman cases have no bearing on the regional plant negotiations. The plant simply belongs to both of us."
On the one hand Ray Tighman, president of the Charles County commissioners, is pleased that growth plans in southern Prince George's County call for low or medium density development. "But locating development on my borderline could set back our own commercial and industrial development by 10 years," Tilghman said. "Prince George's will capture all the industry that comes down the road and the rest of southern Maryland will be the losers."
Amonett doesn't see it that way. "It isn't going to be big brother beating little brother on the head. We each have things we are trying to do in each of our basins."
The Mattawoman sewage treatment plant, in Mason Springs, is scheduled to open in January with scheduled to open in January with a capacity of 5 y with a capcity of 5 million gallons a day. It si designed to ultimately handle 50 MGD.
In a Nov. 21 letter to Tilghman, officials from the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said they won't approve part of the Charles County's comprehensive plan if an agreement on the sewage treatment plant's allocation isn't forthcoming.
Specifically, the state threatens to withold the required state permits for any construction in the Mattawoman basin, which stretches across northern Charles County from Waldorf to Bryans Road. The county's comprehensive plan calls for development - both industrial and residential - in the northern end of the county. The southern end of the county is virtually untouched with development in the comphrensive plan.
Commenting on Charles County's refusal to sell sewage capacity to Prince George's, one state health official said, "Charles County is trying to pull a power play and they won't get away with it. The plant was conceived as a regional plant."
However Tilghman said he is not intimidated by the state's pressure.
"I don't fear the state on this one," he said. "This will get to court. The state has overstepped their bounds. I have no intention of complying with their directive. We are going to stick by our guns."
In a Nov. 30 letter to state Environmental Health Director Donald H. Noren, Tilghman challenged the legal right of the state to impose a moratorium since the county considered its April, 1977, comprehensive plan approved because it wan't rejected by the state within six months of being submitted by the county.
In addition, Tilghman referred to an earlier Charles County offer of a sewage capacity sale to Prince George's County that was turned down. Specifically Charles County officials say they signed an agreement with prince George's County in 1975 allocating 1 MGD capacity, but the offer was turned down because Prince George's wanted to dictate the terms of the plant's expansion.
Since negotiations over the sale of the plant's capacity began 2 1/2 ago, Charles County officials have argued the plant belongs to Charles County with no strings attached even though it was financed with $18 million state funds, $9 million in federal funds, and $9 million county funds.
What prompted the state to try to force Charles County back to the bargaining table was a series of phone calls from Prince George's officials.
"The state made it clear from the beginning that it wasn't to be a one-county plant," said Amonett. Amonett said he saked DNR secretary James Coulter to review the state's committment to the regional concept of the plant.
According to Tilghman, it would be acceptable for Charles County to sell sewer capacity to alleviate the failing septic problem in southern Prince George's.
But Tilghman said it would be "economic and political suicide" to sell sewage capacity and have it create a major shopping center in Brandywone, three miles from the county line, which planners predict would draw 50 cents of every Charles County shopping dollar.
Meanwhile, developers in Charles County have yet to find a major department store to anchor a proposed mall in Waldorf.