I am writing in opposition to the application for Talbot County to transfer to the Town of Easton approximately sixty-five acres of its Maryland Critical Area Growth Allocation in order to facilitate the Proposed Poplar Hill development.
An entity named 5001 SHR L.C. proposes to build approximately 439 homes, townhouses and apartments, 60,000 square feet of commercial space, and multi-purpose sports fields on a 120 acre parcel near the intersection of the Eason Parkway and the Oxford Road. It would evidently be the largest proposed development in Easton in many years.
Easton has already reached the limit of its Maryland Critical Area Growth Allocation, so the project cannot proceed as planned unless Talbot County transfers to Easton 65 acres of its own separate Allocation. This should not occur for several compelling reasons.
First, Talbot County should preserve its own Critical Area Growth Allocation in order to address future development needs in the county. Otherwise, it could be hamstrung regarding future developments. In contrast, Easton has already reached its allocated limit, and it would be a fundamental subversion of the system of allocations for various governmental entities to transfer their allocations between one and other in the manner proposed.
Second, I understand that some such transfers have nevertheless occurred sometimes in the past, but none approaching this amount. Thus, the current proposal represents an extremely large and unprecedented distortion of Critical Area Growth Allocations. For that reason as well, it should be denied.
Third, there are persuasive reasons in this particular case why such a transfer should not be made. First of all, at the recent public hearing, concerned citizens emphatically weighed in. The developer brought in a team of paid consultants, which understandably supported its case. But every other single commenter strongly opposed the proposed development.
Talbot County respectfully should not reach out and make this unprecedented transfer of Growth Allocations when its constituents are on record as being unanimously opposed. After all, who as County Commissioners, are the Talbot County Commissioners elected to represent? This project evokes the recent memory of the Lakeside development in Trappe, where similarly there have been extensive, long-standing emphatic protests from the community. The county commissioners respectfully should avoid an analogous situation arising here. To the extent that there may be a need for additional housing in the nearby area, it is already being served by the controversial Lakeside development. The council respectfully should not pour kerosine on the fire at Poplar Hill Farm.
I won’t reiterate every specific objection that was presented at the public meeting. However, the purpose of the Maryland Critical Area Program is “to protect the natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal shorelines.” And under Section 190-2.2, a key objective is to “Preserve the County’s existing rural character and quality of life.” Obviously, the proposed development based on an unprecedented transfer of such as large amount of Critical Area Growth Allocation flies directly in the face of that simple but extremely important requirement. Here, it would instead enable a development that is typical of what is commonly encountered in large metropolitan areas, like DC and Baltimore. Many of us live in Talbot County because we choose a different lifestyle, the retention of which is the express purpose of the Maryland Critical Area Program. Thus, the application should additionally be denied, because it is antithetical to the overarching purpose of the Maryland Critical Area Program.
The proposed development would also cause a major and avoidable strain on existing infrastructure. Let me give two primary examples. At a subsequent meeting of the Oxford Town Commissioners, our elected Talbot County education representative represented that the nearby schools are already at capacity. It is my understanding from a recent visit to the hospital, that current staff is already sometimes struggling to adequately serving current users.
Adding 439 additional homes will invariably make matters way worse. It is critically important that the county provide sufficient educational and hospital facilities. Even if you consider such specialized uses as indoor tennis, there are only four indoor courts at the YMCA virtually across the street from the proposed development, which are already heavily utilized during wet conditions and in colder months for both tennis and pickleball. Will the developer pay for the additional educational, hospital, and other facilities and infrastructure that would be necessitated by the proposed development? I assume that the answer is no.
The proposed development also includes 60,000 square feet of additional commercial space. From what I have observed, there is already a substantial amount of underutilized commercial space in Easton, some of which is at the nearby major mall where the Easton Parkway intersects with Marlboro. Further, the media has been reporting extensively that many businesses are currently contracting nationwide and in some instances are filing for bankruptcy. There is certainly no pressing need to approve the Poplar Hill Farm development due to a current acute shortage of commercial space in this area.
Finally, traffic is a major concern. The Star Democrat reported that at the public hearing, Planning Commission member Victoria McAndrews agreed that the vehicle increase from the development, which could climb to well over 800 cars, could create a “tremendous amount of traffic” on the Oxford Road. That is painfully and undeniably true. One of the developers experts stated that in his view the traffic would not exceed standards that may apply elsewhere or nationally, but should not be applied in a relatively quiet rural setting, such as the Oxford Road. If the development were to proceed, one way to mitigate that would be to route the traffic in the other direction with an exit directly onto the Easton Parkway.
In conclusion, the Talbot County Commissioners should not approve the unprecedented 65 acres of its Critical Area Growth Allocation to Easton, which has already reached its limit, in order to facilitate the development of a project at odds with the rural character of the area, where there is no apparent need for the project, where the record indicates that the project is strongly opposed by your constituents, and where it would have major adverse impacts including on existing infrastructure and traffic. If you in my view unwisely should approve the current application, you should not expect the controversy to end there. You can hopefully avoid a very contentious longterm dispute by rejecting the current application.
If you have any questions or would like to address the issues further, please feel free to contact me. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my comments.
Letters to Editor
Robert Kopec says
I agree entirely with Mr. Wilcox. There is absolutely no need for such a massive development that would also include a 7 story apartment building.
Dee Andrew says
I totally agree with everything Mr Wilcox said. Easton does not need this kind of growth and we definitely need to protect critical areas. I was born and raised here in Easton and it has been very sad to see our town begin to loose it’s charm and quiet living.
Connie Lauffer says
Mr. Wilcox hits every mail on the head. The transfers are inappropriate in this situation.
The Poplar Hill development is too large, too dense and in the wrong place……. and not in sympathy with Maryland’s Intent for “critical area” protections.
Elizabeth Fisher says
What are they thinking? I totally agree as well. Is that the property with an under contract sign on Oxford Rd?
Henry Hale says
No, the “under contract” is for the wooded lot next door which is slated to become a park. Thsi property is the open field next to it.
Jan Bohn says
Well said Mr. Wilcox!! One would hope the powers that be will listen to your well reasoned and well researched arguments.
Jim Shively says
I completely agree with Mr Wilcox. My wife and I moved to Easton approximately three years ago after living in Northern Virginia for over 40 years. We witnessed first hand the adverse effects of uncontrollable development has on communities. Gridlocked roads, overcrowded schools, pollution, overtaxed infrastructure, empty store fronts, increased taxes, and frustrated angry residents. Oddly enough, most of the wealthy developers who were allowed to force this unlivable lifestyle upon us, didn’t even live in our communities. Why would they?
I believe that Poplar Hill, as currently proposed, is a disaster waiting to happen.
Willard T Engelskirchen says
First Lakeside and now this. When will those with the power so slow this down get the idea that the population in Talbot County wants to keep its character as it is?
John Schreiner says
I agree with Jim and his recommendations. this proposed development is too much. John Schreiner,
Lois Small says
It is heartening to see the intelligence of Talbot Co. residents calling out the disastrous consequences of Poplar Hill getting the extra acreage allocation. Everything Jim Wilcox said is true plus there are serious health dangers to existing nearby residents from all the extra pollution caused by the massive additional traffic. That cannot be fixed! The most common diseases caused by air pollution include ischemic heart disease, stroke, COPD, and lower respiratory infections. No one deserves this!
Dick Deerin says
I agree 100% with the points raised in this letter. Vote against any transfer of Critical Area Development Rights from the County to the Town of Easton for this project.
Jeanie Stark says
I absolutely agree with Mr. Wilcox’s concerns! I can’t imagine this type of development would even be a consideration! Hopefully the county commissioners will listen to the residents of Easton and represent them as they were elected to do!
John W. Pettit says
As longtime residents of Montgomery County, we saw firsthand what can happen to the quality of life when unrestrained development takes place. As residents of Talbot County for the past forty years, we appreciate its rural character now more than ever. But that character is under constant threat. The County Council, and especially the Easton Town Council, should not facilitate a project that will move this County in the direction of yet another crowded metropolitan suburb. Once the rural character of Talbot County is gone, it’s gone.
Tim Boyle says
Let your elected representatives know that should this project move forward, you, and your entire circle of friends and contacts will do everything in your power to ensure they will not be re-elected.
Jerry McConnell says
Curious to know who are the principals / owners of the ambiguous entity 5001 SHR L.C. ?? Which local attorneys are pushing their propaganda?
Patti L Diamond says
Principal Office for this 5001 SHR, L.C. is located at 9161 Liberia Ave, Manassas, VA.
Resident Agent is Anne Marie Westerbaan-Klein in Rockville, MD
You can find business info on the Maryland.gov website.
Barbara Denton says
The local attorney is Ryan Showalter.
Reed Fawell 3 says
Jim Wilcox says: “In contrast, Easton has already reached its allocated limit, and it would be a fundamental subversion of the system of allocations for various governmental entities to transfer their allocations between one and other in the manner proposed.”
Yes, I agree. I also suggest the the potential for harm here is greatly magnified by the obvious fact that this “distortion of Critical Area Growth Allocations” will not only harm the water, flora and fauna of the Tred Avon, it will also enable the Poplar Hill project to serious degrade the traffic capacity of Oxford Road and Easton By-pass, and their intersection, and thus will significantly harm the road access and quality of life now enjoyed by the residents living and/or passing through Talbot county and Easton.
Ralph Walker says
You are right on Jim Wilcox. Don’t forget the MHC proposed mess right across the Oxford Road in the Easton Club. Look it up people and you will see another mess.
Jim you can contact me in Woodland Farms for some other pieces of interest. At 87 I don’t move fast but brain still functions.
Wake up now Easton folks and keep the letters coming to those who must listen to common sense.