Growth is key issue for 2000 General Plan

Planning task force begins work of identifying problems to be addressed

May 06, 1999|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Slowing growth and development will be the focus of Howard County's 2000 General Plan as it was in 1990, a member of a task force working on ideas for the document said last night.

"It's certain that there will be a slowdown," said Kevin Doyle, president of the Elkridge Community Association and a member of the General Plan Task Force. "Whether there's legislation or the fact that there's not the property to deal with it. The question is how we live with that."

The 34 members appointed last month by County Executive James N. Robey met for the first time at Florence Bain Center in Columbia. The group will meet every week to identify issues, such as school crowding, that will be addressed in amendments to the General Plan that was adopted almost a decade ago.

Task force Chairman Jim McGowan said he hopes the group will finish its work before the end of June.

McGowan, a former county school official, said the group's objective is to pinpoint areas where the county needs to make improvements.

"We're going to develop issues," McGowan said.

He said the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Planning Board will suggest solutions to problems that the task force identifies in its report.

At last night's meeting, the task force also discussed the quality of data -- mostly based on 1990 Census data -- provided by the planning department and questioned its usefulness in planning the county's future.

From the task force's work, the Planning Board will present guidelines for the General Plan to the County Council for approval. Based on those guidelines, the Department of Planning and Zoning will draft amendments to the 1990 General Plan for public viewing and, eventually, adoption by the County Council.

Before last night's meeting, some members had concerns about the makeup of the committee, which Fulton resident and task force member Peter Oswald described as laden with "full-speed-ahead asphaltists."

"Those whose affiliations I know are people who would support a high pace of development," said Oswald, past president of the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association. "There are two people who work for Long and Foster. I thought, `We have a lot of representation from the real estate industry.' "

Task force member Ilene Kessler said any speculation about what comes of the meetings is premature.

"Everyone is coming in with one or two ideas that they have in mind," said Kessler, president of the Howard County Association of Realtors, "but we have to evolve."

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