First Chapman's Landing, next Hunters Brooke?

Charles County Commissioner James M. Jarboe (D-Indian Head) is asking Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) to stop the proposed Hunters Brooke housing subdivision.

The project would place 319 houses on 191 acres of land in the little-developed Mason Springs area of western Charles County. It is to be developed along with the adjacent 184-unit Falcon Ridge housing subdivision, which in February received preliminary approval from the county's Planning Commission.

In a June 18 letter, Jarboe asked Glendening to deny a wetlands permit for Hunters Brooke. He said the subdivisions together "constitute a threat to the Smart Growth policy which you have articulated" and are "yet another example of leapfrog development and unplanned growth."

Glendening, citing concerns about sprawl development, last year committed $28 million in state money to buy 2,250 acres in western Charles County and prevent the proposed 4,600-unit Chapman's Landing housing project.

State regulators have made no decision about the permit for Hunters Brooke, said Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

First Colony Developers Win Easement Battle

After causing a lot of jitters for the developers of the massive First Colony project last week, the St. Mary's County commissioners this week backed away from blocking an easement that would link the site with Route 235.

On Tuesday, County Attorney Alfred Lacer told the commissioners that the safety issues some had raised about the development's access to Route 235 were not matters for them to decide.

"There's nothing you can do about it," Lacer told the commissioners. "You are bound by the ordinance."

The zoning ordinance for the First Colony planned unit development (PUD) was approved a year ago and included the two easements for Route 235 access. Last week, the commissioners delayed one of them, saying they were concerned that there already were too many driveways leading to the state highway.

The commissioners also threatened to delay road construction inside the development unless the developer agreed to build FDR Boulevard, a county road, through the length of the property. This too, apparently, was not for the commissioners to decide.

"The PUD documents are clear on this," said Bill McKissick, an attorney representing Portobello Development, owner of First Colony. The zoning ordinance allows the developer to build sections of the road as various phases of commercial and residential development are completed, McKissick said.

"I'm sorry if it has caused the developer any pain or grief," County Commissioner Daniel H. Raley (D-Great Mills) said before voting to approve the easement and road construction agreement.

Raley said, "It must be my personality" to delay decisions until his concerns have been answered.

Planning Vice Chairman Resigns in Charles

The Charles County Planning Commission's vice chairman, Jean Schappet, has resigned, citing the heavy travel demands of her work as a playground design consultant.

The resignation takes effect July 30, five months before her term is due to end, Schappet said in a June 21 letter to commission Chairman JoAnn Ptack. The elected Board of Commissioners is to fill the vacant seat on the appointed seven-member Planning Commission.

Schappet has served since 1994 on the commission, which approves housing subdivisions and other projects and helps set growth management policies for the county of approximately 120,000 people.

Charles School Funding Agreement Is Official

Charles County's two major elected boards on Monday formalized their agreement on public school funding, and on the improvements they expect will result.

The Board of Commissioners in May agreed to raise the property tax rate by 2 percent and the local income tax by 12 percent to help pay for an increase of $8 million in local funding for the 22,000-student school system.

In return, commissioners asked the Board of Education to set benchmarks for student performance. These include raising student scores on standardized tests to levels above state averages.

Board of Education Chairman Wayne Cooper on Monday said the spending plan for the year that begins July 1 helps the schools "continue to move forward with key initiatives, especially in the area of reading."

Food Poisoning Weighs Heavily on Parran's Mind

Maybe it was an early case of summer doldrums, but Calvert County Commissioner John Douglas Parran had little to talk about during the commissioner comment period of his board's weekly meeting, so he launched into some helpful food-handling tips.

"With this hot weather, it's important for food to be prepared properly," said Parran (At Large). The political independent may have been thinking about the topic because he was recovering from a mild bout with food poisoning. "The meat has to be cooked at 160 degrees, I think, for a certain amount of time. And it's important not to leave out dairy products, like mayonnaise, that can spoil quickly."

The other commissioners remained silent as he continued. "Maybe we can have the health department send a warning to all the restaurants in the county, especially in this hot weather," he said.

Not to be outdone, Commissioner Barbara A. Stinnett (D-At Large) used her comment period to wax poetic about her recent visit to the Breezy Point waste water treatment plant. "It was spiffy and clean, and there wasn't a piece of trash lying around there," Stinnett said, as if she were describing a vacation getaway. "It was amazing, the cleanliness. It was just a real impressive thing."

Staff writer Lyndsey Layton contributed to this report.