- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Residents of Calvert County have voiced concern about what is to become of the Calvert Middle School property located in the heart of the Prince Frederick Town Center.
At the Aug. 21 Calvert County Board of County Commissioners meeting, representatives from the League of Women Voters of Calvert County and the Calvert Collaborative for Children and Youth Inc. requested the BOCC consider public input on what to do with the property.
Anne Mychalus, co-president of the LWV of Calvert County, said the league was “frankly surprised we didn’t hear from [the BOCC]” after sending the board a letter about the issue in early August.
In the letter, which Mychalus read to the board, the LWV “urges the board of county commissioners to recognize that it will be a historic decision, and to move slowly and ensure ample opportunity for citizens to express their views and make suggestions,” and that the “commission has not thus far engaged the public in the process to decide the future use of this publicly-owned land.”
The LWV suggests in the letter the “creation of a multi-use park on the Calvert Middle School site” that “would enhance community life in Prince Frederick and throughout Calvert County.”
Guffrie Smith, president of Calvert Collaborative for Children and Youth Inc., also read a letter to the commissioners on behalf of the organization to “voice our concern about the unique opportunity the commissioners have to make a statement about the future of Calvert County with your decisions on the use of the ‘middle school property.’”
The organization, he said, knows “the land has significant commercial value and some of our burdens may be lifted with monetary gains from the sale, but we feel that we need to do our best for kids and families as we approach this decision.”
He suggested in the letter that the commissioners hold “Town Meetings focusing on various options and the impact of these options on the community,” and to solicit “genuine citizen input.”
Vice President of the LWV of Calvert County Roberta Safer told the commissioners “transparency is the big issue,” and that “the more input there is from everyone, the issues will come out and the final decision is better made.”
The Rev. Margaret VanAuker of All Saints Episcopal Church in Sunderland told the commissioners, “We would like to hear what you are thinking” in addition to the commissioners soliciting public comment about what to do with the property.
Director of Calvert County Economic Development Linda Vassallo said Friday that requests for proposals were sent out “some time ago” to land developers. In an email Tuesday, Vassallo said there were five responses to the request.
“We cast a pretty wide net,” she said Friday, adding that they wanted to see “what the best use of the property would be.” She also said there was a stipulation for the use: It has to be financially sustainable without additional county funding for the project.
Vassallo said those proposals have come in and there will be discussion of the proposals “in the coming months” with the BOCC.
According to a summary of the request for proposals that was posted on eMaryland Marketplace in September 2010, the county “desires a unique concept for this cornerstone location, one that will set a high standard for the Prince Frederick Town Center.”
The request goes on to say that development of the approximately 16-acre property is “a high priority for the BOCC,” and encouraged proposals to “include a review of adjacent properties for possible inclusion, and to maximize development.”
The BOCC “will consider all proposals that would require a change to the allowed uses,” height and square-footage of the property, according to the request.
Proposals were due Feb. 1, 2011, according to the request for proposals, and selection and announcement of a proposal was set for June 2011.
In the email, Vassallo said, “At this time, no decision has been made on development of the property. In the coming months, the County Commissioners will be discussing options for the future of the Calvert Middle School property that will involve a very public process.”
Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) said Friday the request for proposals was put out about three or four years ago by the previous board and that three or four proposals have been received. He said that those proposals have been “narrowed down by capability.”
Clark said the process the county is in right now is in looking to rewrite the Prince Frederick Town Center Master Plan and look at the zoning uses within the town center.
“We’re still so early in the process,” Clark said, adding that there will be “sufficient time for public comment or input.”
“As we get into the rewrite of the town center, there’ll be a focus on that whole area and the subareas,” and that’s when public comment for the property will be solicited, he said.
Calvert County Community Planning and Building Director Chuck Johnston said Friday “the sense of the commissioners is wanting to look at the site with regards to the larger area.”
Johnston explained that there may be a work session with the BOCC “in a few weeks about the property and the town center plan update.
“That’s just one jigsaw in the larger picture,” Johnston said of the middle school property.
The plan right now, Johnston said, is to do the town center master plan update in phases by “geographically splitting it in half.”
“We want to focus on the revision of the content, since it’s 20-something years old,” he said. “I don’t want us to get lost in the format changes,” he added.
“We’re always looking for economic development,” he said of the county. “We’ll have to discuss and debate if that’s more important.”