Debating Calvert's Growth

Ray McCaffrey's article in the July 18 Southern Maryland Extra ("Calvert Growth Focus of Debate") presented a realistic overview of the July 13 meeting at Calvert High School. I would like to add these additional points.

Based on a variety of comments that were stated during the planning meeting regarding the Patuxent Plan now called the Calvert Master Plan, I question if the Planning Commission or the Board of County Commissioners have the authority to proceed on the "big-box" retail store issue.

Several individuals made reference to the Patuxent Plan as being developed by a citizens group during the 1980s to map out a strategy to allow for residential and commercial growth in a smart fashion. One of these was the development of town centers, with locations in Solomons, Lusby, Prince Frederick, Huntingtown and Dunkirk. All of the town centers were designated as "minor town centers" with the exception of Prince Frederick, which was designated to be a "major town center." As stated at the meeting, minor town centers were designed for the convenience of the residents of that town, i.e. Dunkirk Town Center for the residents of Dunkirk -- not Chesapeake Beach, not Lusby, not Prince Frederick, but Dunkirk. Others may shop at these areas, but they were designed for their own community.

On the other hand, the major town center was centrally located as the hub of the county with major retail establishments authorized. . . .

I question if the residents of Calvert County ever surrendered their rights to allow the Planning Commission to be the sole spokesperson on an issue of this importance. I believe the answer is no. I believe this is one of those issues that needs to be placed before the public for a vote. Contrary to what David F. Hale, the president of the county commissioners says, this is not one issue related to big boxes but several issues that need to be presented before the public in a referendum vote:

* Should the Planning Commission and county commissioners have the authority to change the size or status of town centers without a vote from the population it affects -- yes or no?

* Should store sizes be limited in the Prince Frederick major town center -- yes or no?

* For the people residing within the Dunkirk Town Center region, Zip code 20754, should construction of stores be limited to 75,000 square feet or less -- yes or no?

These are the issues, let the people decide.

Here are some additional tidbits that I heard at the July 13 meeting.

Apples vs. Oranges: Let me paraphrase one speaker the other night: Town centers are set up based solely on population and nothing else. Viewed in that way, Dunkirk is a major town center because its population is the same as Prince Frederick's. The individual used the center point of the Dunkirk and Prince Frederick town centers for his analysis. Within a 3.5-mile radius of each point, Dunkirk had a greater population than Prince Frederick. . . . I submit that if he redid his analysis and used the outer borders of each town center, Prince Frederick's population would be greater. Minor town centers were written in the master plan for the convenience of the community, not the county. The major town center located at Prince Frederick was designed and set up as the hub of the county. . . . So why is this person so impassioned about a store in Dunkirk, it's not the 19,000 people in Dunkirk, I don't believe it's even the residents who live in Calvert. I believe it's the current population and future population of southern Prince George's County. More than 30,000 people currently live in the Upper Marlboro area and there are more than 16,000 new homes planned from Central Avenue to Brandywine. . . .

Wal-Mart Reps: The men and women who spoke against limiting the big boxes represented Wal-Mart. What did I hear out of this? I heard people from Alabama and Illinois speak highly of their employer. I would expect nothing less -- these folks were the managers that have the salaries, 401(k)s, health care and vacation benefits. But what about the normal rank and file. In Calvert County, those people probably start at the minimum wage for a maximum of 30 hours a week, which means no benefits as they are considered part-time employees. In Prince George's County, Wal-Mart would be required to pay a living wage that I believe is about $9 an hour versus the minimum wage of around $6 per hour. Also, let's put a slightly different spin on this. The Wal-Mart stores in both Prince Frederick and Lexington Park have both been on those sites for more than eight years, however, I did not hear one person from Wal-Mart indicate that they grew up in the area and grew up within the Wal-Mart corporate structure. What does this say to individuals who go to work there? You're okay as an hourly employee, but you can't aspire to be a manager. From a purely business standpoint, where the key phrase is location, location, location, why Dunkirk? And why not Upper Marlboro? Simple. Infrastructure and labor costs are higher. The Wal-Mart reps didn't lie, they just didn't give the whole picture. . . .

If giving up Wal-Mart in the minor town center of Dunkirk means that we can't have a Lowe's, Home Depot, Kohl's or Sears in Dunkirk, so be it. I can live with driving the eight to 10 miles to go to one of those stores in another county. I can live with driving to [the] Annapolis mall or any other mall every two to three months as needed. I can and do more shopping online as that security becomes greater and ease of shopping better.

Michael S. Smith


Cubs Thank Supporters

Cub Scout Pack 1786 of Mechanicsville hosted their inaugural 5k run/walk last month. The event was a huge success, raising over $3,300, which was divided between Pack 1786 and the Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department, which has graciously sponsored the pack without compensation for the last 30 years.

Pack 1786 and the MVFD extend their gratitude to these many supporters who contributed to the success of this event:

Somerset Homes, Two Guys Auto Body, Doy Inc., Pro Fitness Health & Exercise Clubs, Waldorf Ford Dodge, Wentworth Nursery, Johnson Controls, Chaney Enterprises, All American Harley Davidson, Tri-County Aire, JellyBean Child-Care Center, Patuxent Pump & Well, Guy Motors Car Sales, Southern Maryland Tax Service, Combs and Drury Insurance Agency, St. Mary's Dental, Production Products, Moore's Driving Academy, Aggregate Industries, Wawa, O'Brien Realty, Seafood Corner Market, Three Mules Welding Supply, Burger King, Mechanicsville Building, SMECO, Clark Automotive, MB Construction and OutsourceIT.

Leslie Johns

Charlotte Hall