the major change agents through time that have dramatically affected
Southern Maryland, the planned community of St. Charles is probably the
one that has had the most visible impact on the region.
Considering its impact, the planned community's history is relatively
short, reaching only to 1968, when a previous owner sold the undeveloped
land to James Wilson who founded and ran the development company that
has put St. Charles on the map and that still does today.
Prior to Wilson's acquisition of the land, there were plans to build an
international airport on the site (that airport actually became Dulles
International in Virginia). Two previous land developers failed to make
a mark due to inadequate financial partners, explained Edwin L. Kelly,
president and chief operating officer of American Community Properties
Trust (ACPT)-Wilson's company that owns and develops St. Charles. Today,
Wilson's son J. Michael Wilson is the chairman and CEO of ACPT.
Before the company became ACPT, it was known as Interstate General Co.
L.P.-or simply as IGC. The company started in Puerto Rico as a
construction and building firm and in 1968 its operations expanded into
large-scale planned development with the acquisition of the land in
Kelly, who has been with ACPT since 1973, said this unique community was
one of only a dozen such projects given funding support by the New
Communities Act-a federal program designed to encourage planned suburban
growth. Similar successful planned communities include Columbia,
Maryland, and The Woodlands, Texas, said Kelly.
For the last 38 years, ACPT has been developing "9,100 acres of rural
land into a mix of residential, recreational, commercial, industrial and
educational land uses" (http://stcharlesmd.com/index.html). The
concept of "new towns" required that the community be self sufficient
with a mix of residential, industrial and commercial development and
should "provide housing for low, middle and high end" purchasers, said
St. Charles also became the largest provider of rental units in the
county via HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) new
town funding (later referred to as Section 8). Also, as part of the New
Communities Act funding, and an agreement with Charles County Government
(Docket 90), ACPT has provided land and funding for major infrastructure
and facilities such as the Mattawoman Wastewater Treatment Plant,
Civista Medical Center, the White Plains Regional Park, 10 school sites,
fire department/EMS sites, a library, ball parks and more, said Kelly.
To link all of these vital amenities, ACPT has been developing major
roadways as well, including a part of the Cross County Connector, which
will link Route 5 in the east to Route 210 on the western side of the
county. According to Craig Renner, ACPT's assistant vice president of
community relations, ACPT has "built the portion from just east of the
landfill to the railroad tracks near Routes 925 and 301. We are
currently widening it to two travel lanes in each direction across that
"In the next 18 months, we'll have completed all major road ways," said
Kelly of ACPT's agreement with the county.
The master plan for the community hasn't changed much since its
establishment in the early 1970s, said Kelly, "We've stayed true to the
plan." That plan includes five villages- Smallwood Village, Westlake
Village, Fairway Village, Wooded Glen and Piney Reach. A typical New
England town was used as a model for the villages, which are composed of
Just as a New England town might, each of the villages includes its own
schools, churches, shopping and recreation centers including pools,
tennis courts and playgrounds. The earliest development, not built by
ACPT, consisted of what is now Carrington Neighborhood-originally named
Linda City after one of the early developer's wives.
ACPT's first completed village was Smallwood and it includes four
neighborhoods (Carrington, Bannister, Huntington and Wakefield). Next to
be developed and across Route 301 lies Westlake Village, made up of
Dorchester, Hampshire and Lancaster neighborhoods with 4,272 housing
units. South of Smallwood Village lies the latest development begun in
1998 and called Fairway village, because it surrounds the White Plains
Golf Course. Fairway's first completed neighborhood is called Sheffield.
ACPT is half way through its original master plan. Kelly estimates ACPT
will be developing the master plan for at least the next 40 years with
the last two villages (Wooded Glen and Piney Reach) covering another
3,500 acres and reaching south to MD Route 488 in the central part of
Charles County. Total land coverage of St. Charles is 14 square miles.
Kelly used Manhattan, New York, which is 24 square miles, to provide a
"The beauty of a 14-square acre development is that you can have a
million dollar house and a landfill" in the same community, said Kelly.
See St. Charles Grow
o When completed in 2035, St. Charles will have an estimated population
o Approximately 35,000 people (or about one-third of the total
population of Charles County) live in St. Charles.
o St. Charles has over 10,000 housing units and approximately 2.7
million square feet of commercial and 1.4 million square feet of
o St. Charles Towne Center Mall, a 1.1 million square foot regional
mall, opened in 1990.
o Restaurant sites are selling now for the O'Donnel Lake Restaurant
Park-a 14-acre waterfront area adjacent to the St. Charles Towne Center
and within walking distance of the mall's movie theaters.
o Over 20 percent of St. Charles is permanent parkland. There are miles
of paths for hiking and biking, 16 lakes, a conservation area, and White
Plains Regional Park with an 18-hole public golf course and ball fields
of all types.
o In 1998 ACPT went public and is now listed on the American and Pacific
stock exchanges under the symbol AmCmntyProp (APO).