The members of Chestertown’s Planning Commission are all a bunch of wonks.
This is a good thing.
A citizen dropping in on the commission’s meeting Wednesday night gets to hear hours of fascinated, but not fascinating, discussion of MGE’s, PFA’s, MDP’s, DCA’s, WRE’s and consideration of “where jurisdictions have superior parcel data, such as a parcel polygon GIS file. . .”
Everybody clear on that? The planning commissioners, it turns out, are. They can go on all night, and they pretty much do, in animated argument over “infill development capacity analysis.”
Yes, it takes a special person to plan and plan and plan for town growth that, it becomes clear, not a one of them really much wants.
They are in a hard place. They mostly agree that if they don’t make annexation plans, development will happen around the town without any planning. If they do plan for annexations, some citizens and probably all developers will interpret that as an invitation to come here and develop.
One thing they’ve got to do, they also agree, is come to terms with their county counterparts over the pesky PFA’s. Those are, of course, Priority Funding Areas, which are areas designated for development. And Kent County has designated some PFA’s around Chestertown that don’t line up exactly with the areas the town sees as next in line for development.
How big a problem is that? Maybe not so much.
“The county does have our backs,” says Town Manager Bill Ingersoll, before adding, “as much as any county does for any town.”
Commissioner James Gatto chimes in, “We are in the best county for smart growth,” and adds, “Queen Anne’s County is the worst.”
Commissioner Gil Watson observes, “Look at what’s happening in Middletown and Centreville, directly north and south of us. Two disasters.”
So, a friendly and sympathetic county around the town may be helpful for containing unwanted growth, but really, from a planner’s point of view, there’s nothing like a good old fashioned economic collapse.
As Commissioner Chris Cerino points out, “We already approved two out of three areas for annexation last year” and with 990 in-town lots now identified as possible sites for new housing “we would be smothered with development right now – if the economy hadn’t flopped.”
As for the MGE’s, MDP’s, DCA’s and WRE’s, they stand for . . .no, wait, to get the full rich flavor of the debate, you’ve got to be there, at the next meeting of the Chestertown Planning Commission, where everybody around the table has a high old time.