Hearing set on county blueprint Thursday

Plan tracks trends, guides development

July 05, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County has lost 9 percent of its farmland since 1992, is becoming more of a haven for senior citizens and relies on commuters from other jurisdictions for about half of its work force.

Details about such trends -- along with hundreds of other facts and recommendations -- are included in a 204-page draft of Baltimore County's Master Plan that will be the subject of a public hearing scheduled by the planning board Thursday in Towson.

The plan, updated every 10 years, is both a blueprint for development and a snapshot of the county's population, its income levels and travel patterns.

The plan, which uses U.S. Census data, notes that:

Between 1970 and 1997, the county's median age shot up from 29 to 37, and the percentage of residents age 65 and older doubled, from 7.4 percent to 14.8.

About half the county's 360,000 workers were employed in the county, while a third commuted to jobs in Baltimore City. The rest of the work force was scattered among jobs in Anne Arundel, Howard, Carroll and other jurisdictions.

Farmland acreage dropped from 83,232 acres in 1990 to 75,795 in 1997.

Despite such detailed information, the master plan is criticized by some community leaders because it provides only guidelines for development and lacks the force of law.

"In the communities, there is a concern that it should be more closely heeded when it comes to making decisions about specific development plans," said Ruth Baisden, coordinator for Project 98, a group of community leaders and activists who monitor the county development process.

Still, Baisden and other community activists say the plan is important in spelling out land use priorities.

"It sets overall county policy, and it sets out the direction the county is going to take over the next decade," said Melanie Anson, president of Sudbrook Park Inc., a community group.

For example, Anson said, residents in her Pikesville community often complain about issues ranging from development of open space to motorists who speed through residential neighborhoods.

Having such problems listed as priorities in the master plan is a first step toward solving them, community activists say.

"A lot of people have concerns about open space and quality of life issues. This hearing is an opportunity for those people to have a say in the process of how and where open space is preserved," Baisden said.

David Pinning, the county's master plan coordinator, said comments at the hearing will be considered by the planning board when it amends the plan. A preliminary draft was released in October.

The board will forward its amended plan to the County Council, which will hold a public hearing in the fall before adopting a final master plan.

The planning board hearing is scheduled for 5: 30 p.m. in the County Council chambers in the Old Courthouse, 400 Washington Ave., Towson. A copy of the plan is available in all county libraries and on the World Wide Web at www.co.ba.md.us.

Pub Date: 7/05/99

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