MOUNT AIRY — Allowing this historic town to grow while maintaining its pleasant quality of life is one goal of town planners working on revisions to the master plan.
The revisions may include a change in zoning and land-use strategies, town planner Teresa Bamberger told Planning Commission members Monday night at a work session on the master plan, a 10-year blueprint to handle growth.
Current zoning laws "segregate" land uses, she said. Industrial parks must be kept separate from commercial and retail centers and from residential areas, she said.
"It's not working for us," Bamberger said. She added that separate uses cause unnecessary barriers for residents.
"The cheerful thing about all this is we can change it,"she said.
The town could adopt zoning that is specific and focuses on appearance, making use less important, Bamberger said.
Main Street is a good example, she said. In a quarter-mile stretch of Main Street near the town hall, there are houses, rental units, a fire company, a hardware store and other businesses, she said.
"There's incredible diversity," she said.
New developments don't have this variety because zoning doesn't allow it, she added.
Current zoning doesn't take "scale, proportion and rhythm" into account, she said.
Streets should be pleasant places to walk along, Bamberger said. People are comfortable walking along most residential streets, but don'tenjoy walking to or past commercial sites, which often have large stretches of asphalt, she said.
The Planning Commission has been meeting monthly for more than a year to review and revise the master plan. By June 1, the group must have a plan ready to present to the public, Bamberger said.
About 10 people attended Monday's meeting at town hall.
Commission Chairman Frederick Goundry said the town has a responsibility to its residents and to the people who live in surrounding communities. Mount Airy's businesses and restaurants serve people who live in Carroll, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery counties, he said.
This responsibility to serve a larger population could detract from the community feeling planners want to achieve, he said.
The town is in the "golden triangle" of Baltimore, Washington and Frederick, the draft master plan says.
"Mount Airy cannot successfully adopt no-growth policies, but should play a central role in determining the nature of inevitable growth," the draft says.
Half of the town's land is in Carroll County, and the other half is in Frederick, Bamberger said.
The town's population has doubled since 1970. The 1990 U.S. Census reported the population at 3,892.
Officials have a great opportunity to improve future development because almost half of the town's land is vacant, Bamberger said. On the east side oftown, 62 percent of the vacant land is zoned for residential use and20 percent for industrial use, she said. The remaining land is zonedfor commercial use or open space.
The commission watched an hour-long video, "Rethinking Suburban Sprawl," that emphasized grouping buildings by size, not use, and encouraged mixing different types of homes for different income levels in neighborhoods.
Bamberger also showed slides of Mount Airy development that illustrated the town's seven zoning categories.
In addition to zoning concerns, the master plan includes information on protecting historic features and naturalresources. It discussesroads, the water supply, sewers, schools, parks and recreation facilities and emergency services.