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 Letter to Charles County Commissioners

regarding Maryland Airport
April 15, 2022





Help Stop the removal of the Watershed Conservation District

around Maryland Airport

Charles County Commissioner Public Virtual Hearing

Wednesday, September 22 at 6 pm

PLEASE NOTE: THE COUNTY, starting 8 a.m. this morning, started giving a new signup process from what we had been told for weeks up until yesterday. The old way, no longer being used, is below in smaller type, italics and in parens. The NEW way is that they email you an URL, you sign on at 6, and wait your turn.  There are three things on the agenda, with the Airport amendment third.  What we know from a recent hearing in Prince George's County, that under this system many people just abandon, cutting participation by perhaps 80%.  Ask that the record be held open for 60 days.  Ask that they try harder to involve the public.

This hearing is on a proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Plan that would allow a tremendous expansion of the existing airport onto surrounding lands that are highly sensitive. The proposal would remove the environmental protections (Watershed Conservation District) that stand in the way of the conversion of sensitive forest land into impervious surfaces – which the Airport Expansion would do on a terrible scale.

How you can help:

Most importantly, register to speak at the virtual hearing TODAY, Wednesday September 22. Register to speak on that day (by calling 301-885-2779) after 8 a.m. and definitely before 4 p.m. They will ask for your phone number. Give the number you will be at between 6 on 9 Wednesday evening, Sept. 22. NOTE:  As on 8 a.m.. today we were informed that the County's signup rules are different from what we were told yesterday. Now, when you sign up and register, they send you an email with information for logging on to a web based virtual meeting.  The Airport hearing is the third item on the agenda. 

(They will call you between 6 and 9, put you on hold for a couple of minutes, and then tell you you are unmuted. Speak for three minutes and hang up when you are done. Please ask that the record be held open for 60 days for comments from the public. Other suggested points to make are below.)

You can comment online at a Charles County comment website: You can do that any time including on Sept. 21, but definitely before 4 p.m. Sept. 22. If you can only do one thing, speaking at the virtual hearing is the most important because the County Commissioners, the decision makers, will hear you directly.

Please like, comment and share the airport posts on the Mattawoman Watershed Society facebook page.

Please like, comment and share (and watch) a YouTube video with discussion of the threat to the schoolchildren at J. C. Parks Elementary School and Matthew Henson Middle School from increased exposure to lead from the airport expansion that would follow the removal of the Watershed Conservation District.

If you have any questions or want more information, call 301-518-2708 and ask your questions. Or email

Points to make especially at the virtual hearing (one or more of these):

Please hold the record open for 60 days.

The proposed amendment --

Would greatly increase the exposure of school children in the area to lead pollution. There is no safe level of lead in the human body, and children are particularly vulnerable. See the above YouTube link.

Would change 583 acres protected for their environmental sensitivity into industrial and airport use. This would greatly increase the amount of impervious surface, carrying more sediment into Mattawoman Creek at a higher speed, at a higher temperature, and threatening living resources in the Creek.

Would weaken the Watershed Conservation District, which the County put in place to protect Mattawoman Creek in response to an urgent report issued by an Inter-Agency Task Force of the State of Maryland and the federal government, warning about paving any more of the Mattawoman Watershed.

Here is some more information:

(Interagency Task Force, “The Case for Protection . . .”

YouTube video on lead and the airport with Dr. Richard Cook, President of the Charles County Medical Society.

Bay Journal article about how proposed airport expansion endangers local community's health, welfare, and quality of life with threat to fish, wildlife, and bird habitat of local, state, and national renown.

Grist article regarding airports and lead poisoning:" A majority of the 50 general aviation airports with the highest volume of lead emissions are located in communities of color. Black children are disproportionately burdened by lead exposure nationwide."

The Case for Protection of the Watershed Resources of Mattawoman Creek (powerpoint)

Sierra Club Video including Dr. Richard Cook, Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, and Jim Lawson

Dr. Richard Cook and James Lawson discuss the threat of airborne lead in Charles County schools.

Severe threat to Mattawoman Creek - mark your calendars - September 22

Hearing on crucial land-use change of 558 stream valley acres from conservation to industrial.

The Charles County Commissioners have initiated an amendment to the Charles County Comprehensive Plan to rezone 558 acres of Mattawoman forested stream valleys as industrial. This would remove the Watershed Conservation District designation there, and would be a burden on federal, state, and local taxpayers. The Charles County Commissioners must not remove the Watershed Conservation District around the Maryland Airport.

The amendment would facilitate the expansion of Maryland Airport and further pollute the air, affecting many residents and the children at two local schools. The two schools, J. C. Parks and Matthew Henson Middle School, are only 2100 feet away from the runway. No neighborhood or community should be asked to bear this burden and accept this damage to the health and well-being of their children and families, the loss of property value and quality of life.

A grave threat to Mattawoman Creek  -- Help us take action

Mark your calendars. on SEPTEMBER 22 at 6 p.m. the Charles County Commissioners will hold a virtual hearing to advance their proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Plan of 2016. This amendment would convert 558 acres of Watershed Conservation District into Industrial Zoning, paving the way for a vast expansion of Maryland Airport. This airport expansion would greatly increase the dumping of lead down onto the children who attend J. C. Parks Elementary School and Matthew Henson Middle School. The schools are only 2100 feet away, and the runway aims right at them.  

In the below maps, the left shows the airport footprint as it is not, and as the amendment would allow it to be. The airport owner has already expressed the intent to make this expansion happen, and the amendment seems tailored to facilitate it. Note the location of the schools, indicated by the white representations of buildings.  The pink areas show industrial zoning. The blue shows Watershed Conservation District, which the amendment would strip.  The green shows lands protected by the state or county.

The county is apparently intending that the citizens of Charles County subsidize the infrastructure for a 783-acre industrialized area and support a private airport that has expressed its intent to expand the runway to facilitate the increase of the number of lead-dispersing propeller aircraft, and also corporate jets.

The project would industrialize a deep-rooted historical residential community and unacceptably increase their exposure to airport toxins and noise.

It would further degrade Mattawoman Creek and be a critical, unacceptable impact on the fish nursery which is at the tipping point for irreparable damage.

Let us unify and stop this short-sighted idea, that would benefit the few at the expense of the many. It would move money from the public to a private airport owner whose connection to the County is based on extraction – with the help of the County government. Protect Mattawoman Creek and the families who love it, and who benefit from its health.

The airport expansion must be stopped. We must stop it. The additional propeller engine aircraft use leaded gas. This is particularly important because 1,500 children go to the two public schools only 2100 feet from the runway. The community that lives in the airport area deserves to be protected by our County Commissioners. That’s the Commissioners’ job.

Please stay tuned!  

The Watershed Conservation District is

a key part of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan. The Charles County Commissioners are threatening to weaken it to allow for industrial zoning and airport expansion.

Charles County's Comprehensive Land-Use Plan, adopted in July of 2016, calls for zoning to curtail the sprawl development that is harmful to Mattawoman Creek and the headwaters of the Port Tobacco River. The Watershed Conservation District implements this zoning. With less new sprawl, this district will do much to sustain the quality of life and rural character cherished by residents. Developers opposed the WCD, saying it would prevent them from building 17,000 new housing units allowed under the previous sprawl-friendly zoning. And that number that would soar with "bonus densities." 

The Watershed Conservation District is an innovative growth control tool, one of the most advanced in Maryland. The WCD is a comprehensive zoning action, a well-established means of directing growth and the prerogative of local government.

The Watershed Conservation District:

  • will improve home values by reducing competition and conserving green space
  • will stabilize property taxes by avoiding public subsidies for sprawl development
  • will promote investment in "Priority Funding Areas," where MD assists with funding
  • will reduce the county's growth rate, which promotes prosperity (pdf)
  • will reduce growth of congestion on commuter routes 210 and 301, and on 228
  • will alleviate school overcrowding
  • will keep Mattawoman Creek from exceeding the "tipping point" for irreversible loss
  • will conserve important headwaters of the Port Tobacco River like Page's Swamp
  • will prevent ill-conceived projects like Guilford & keep Billingsley Road rural

As a first step in bowing to developers, a majority of the Charles County Commissioners are pushing to amend the Comprehensive Plan. The amendment would allow 558 acres of the WCD to be zoned for industrial use around the privately owned Maryland Airport in Bryans Road/Pomonkey. Industrial use in this place can only be destructive to nature and society given the extreme environmental sensitivity. What's more, taxpayers would be tapped to provide sewer to an area that market studies find it is not economically sound. This bad amendment is totally in contradiction to the spirit and purpose of the WCD.

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