The purpose of this letter is to outline the intent of the Cooperative Development Agreement and the Proposed Text Amendments for Armory Square. The statements contained in this letter are the positions and opinion of The Small Business Interest Group and are not meant to reflect the specific opinions or commitments of the County. A locally owned Land Use Development Entity has joined forces with the County to try to bring forth a High Quality Mixed Use Commercial and Residential Development Plan consistent with the findings and recommendations of the Prince Frederick Charrette for the property known as Armory Square. There has been a great deal of misinformation and inaccurate speculation as to the intent of the Cooperative Agreement and we will attempt herein to set the record straight.
Cooperative Development Agreement
The Goals and objectives of our Collaborative effort are to create a Mixed Use plan that has 4 components: Quality Commercial Development, Residential Development, a Civic Component (Community Center) and Open Space and Pedestrian Connectivity.
Commercial Development. We have an enormous shortfall in our commercial retail opportunities that are available in Calvert County. We want to bring creditworthy National Retailers to Calvert County to begin to address the $460 million of annual retail revenue we lose to adjacent jurisdictions, as identified in the 2011 Fore Consulting Report prepared for the previous Board of County Commissioners. We have significant shortfalls in ALL commercial retail categories. The requested text amendments are necessary to permit anchor tenants by right in all categories to include a Premium Grocery Store, Department Store, Home Improvement Center and General Merchandise. Currently the New Town District has a limit of 25,000 Sq. Ft. for proposed commercial uses. 25,000 Sq. Ft. is insufficient for anchor tenants in any category and without regulations permitting quality anchor tenants we have no chance of creating a viable mixed use plan. This would result in continued spending outside our county.
Residential Development. The plan is to create an opportunity for a mix of residential housing. National and regional trends are showing that customers of all demographics are looking for smaller, low maintenance, cost effective housing opportunities within or adjacent to commercial development. At this point Calvert County has very little housing other than large lot single family residences on well and septic. The proposal is to bring a complimentary housing product to the marketplace other than large lot single family housing. Marketing analysis’ shows that there is significant demand for alternative housing types in the Prince Fredrick area.
Civic Component. A local land developer is working with the County to develop an overall plan for Armory Square that includes a Community Center for the Prince Frederick area. The Community Center is a much needed facility for the central portion of the County, which is dramatically underserved at the present time. Consequently, there is a great deal of interest by many parties to bring this to fruition. It is the desire of all interested parties to accommodate the will and the desire of the people and provide this much needed facility. The overall development will span from Route 4 to Calvert High School. There are multiple options for the location of the community center ranging from the land adjacent to the Route 4 and Dares Beach Road intersection to the land adjacent to the High School and the Middle School in the rear portion of the site. The joint venture participants are hopeful that an agreement will be reached on a facility design and a location that will be beneficial to all parties.
Open Space and Pedestrian Connectivity. Some areas of the proposed development warrant environmental protection. Those same areas may also be used for Sidewalks, Nature Trails, Stormwater Management devices and Open Space. It is the goal of the participants to create a pedestrian friendly natural environment to allow pedestrian connectivity between the individual components of the site to create a comprehensive and cohesive design.
We have a unique opportunity to work together to create an overall mixed use plan that will meet many of the goals and objectives of the comprehensive plan and the needs of the residents of Calvert County. We as a County have very limited commercial retail opportunities and a limited commercial tax base. We can create much needed jobs, commercial opportunities, and commercial tax base. We can keep some of our hard earned money closer to home and stop driving out of the County for a majority of goods and services. We as a County can no longer afford to export jobs and tax base to adjacent jurisdiction.
Our young people, middle aged residents (with and without children), and older individuals are all looking for housing options that are currently not available in Calvert County. It is our goal to provide these housing options in the Prince Fredrick area in the near future. The Armory Square development and a few other projects in the Prince Frederick area are poised to bring these much needed housing options to fruition in the near future. The location of this property makes it uniquely suitable for this purpose.
If we are going to preserve our outlying Farm and Forest Districts through the use of Transfer Development Rights (TDR’s), we are going to have to support commercial and residential development in our Town Centers. Many of the areas previously available for residential development throughout the County have been eliminated through the State Septic Ban. If the County TDR program is to survive it will depend on the development in the Town Centers that have sewer, specifically Prince Frederick, Lusby and Solomon’s. The Incorporated Towns of North Beach and Chesapeake Beach do not participate in the TDR program and to a great extent have been previously developed.
Proposed Text Amendments
As there has been a great deal of misinformation spread regarding the proposed development of Armory Square and required text amendments, we will try to succinctly outline the reasons for the proposed text amendments.
The size of the permitted uses must increase so that we can attract quality anchor tenants to allow the project to be economically viable and to meet the needs of the citizens of the County.
The setbacks adjacent to Route 4 are being reduced because SHA is taking approximately 70’ of property along the property frontage. Approximately 20’ of that area will be paved. The other 50’ of land within the State right-of-way will include grassed areas where sidewalks, utilities, landscaping and Stormwater Management devices will be located. Setbacks in Prince Frederick regulate all improvements to include curbs, parking lots, building etc. Even with a reduced setback adjacent to Route 4 a significant landscape buffer will exist.
The height and density provisions are proposed to be modified to allow greater density and flexibility with the proposed residential design. All units above the base density will require the purchase of TDR’s. It is not the intent to put large scale buildings pushing the size limits or the height limits directly adjacent to Route 4.
We hope that this letter outlining and clarifying the intent of the cooperative agreement and the proposed text amendments will inform the public of the cooperative intent of the parties. The County has the opportunity to work together with a local development entity to create the best possible mixed use plan in Southern Maryland on the Armory Square property. The Text Amendments are needed to attract quality anchor tenants to make the project economically viable and a specific development plan cannot be created until the anchor tenants needs and requirements are addressed. This is an exciting and unique opportunity for Calvert County, we all need to do everything we can to advance this project, create jobs, preserve our farmland and keep our retail spending in Calvert County.