Panel approves Freedom blueprint

Proposed rezonings deleted

it now goes to commissioners

July 21, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After deleting three proposals that would increase growth and stressing the need for better roads, the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission approved a blueprint yesterday for developing its most populous area.

Deborah Ridgely, commission chairwoman, called the Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan "an overall compromise and consensus" that must now go to the county commissioners for final approval.

Gone from the document are three rezonings that could have meant at least another 1,000 homes in an area that has more than doubled in population to 28,000 in the past two decades. The proposed rezonings would have turned agricultural land into housing developments.

Areas that survived the intensive review process include the Boulevard District, created to improve Freedom's major business sector, an employment campus on land recently annexed by the town of Sykesville, an industrial zone near Route 97, and several road projects.

The county commissioners can either adopt the document or send it back to the planning panel, which passed it 4-to-1. The plan's 11 chapters deal with every aspect of community life and represents nearly three years of work by county planners, a volunteer citizens group and the commission. It's the first major revision to the original plan for Freedom, which was adopted 22 years ago.

The three commissioners have set no time limit for completing their review, but planners are hoping for a decision before the capital improvement budget allocations are set in December.

Commission member Grant Dannelly wants the Freedom plan approved quickly so that several road projects can receive funding.

"I would like to see these roads in the new Capital Improvements Plan," said Dannelly.

Ed Wheatley, the only commission member to vote against the plan, said he preferred to wait until the commissioners decide on the comprehensive master plan for all of Carroll before he sends them the Freedom plan.

"I want a plan that will be accepted, not one that we will have to start over six months from now," said Wheatley.

Steven C. Horn, county planning director, said he would draft a letter stating the commission's request for a timely review.

"The planning commission wants to encourage the commissioners not to slow the process down," Horn said. "We want to get the plan in front of the commissioners so they can look at how some projects might fit into future budgets."

A few South Carroll residents attended the session yesterday, but the commission did not take comment from the public. Ed Primoff, who served two years on a citizens group that helped write the plan, said he would have offered one final criticism.

"The citizens council came up with a consensus on a plan that addresses the real problems of Freedom," said Primoff, who is president of the Carroll Landowners Association, a group dedicated to property-rights issues. "This finished plan is contrary to almost every recommendation we made and doesn't address the problems. The only thing it covers is the eyes and ears of the Planning Commission."

Primoff is particularly concerned with water and sewer issues, which he said the plan does not address adequately. Freedom is under its third consecutive summer ban on outdoor water use, due to high demand and insufficient capacity at its treatment plant.

Wheatley said that even without the plan's approval, he would like to have a steering committee appointed to begin work immediately on improving Freedom's business areas along routes 26 and 32.

"The Boulevard District should go ahead," he said. "We have not seen or heard any problems with it."

A steering committee would create aesthetic guidelines for the business district and recommend design standards for shops and offices.

Carroll established Freedom as a growth area in 1977 and has since directed development to the 47-square-mile area at its southeastern corner. The population has more than doubled, but services and infrastructure have not kept pace.

At public hearings and workshops, residents reiterated their concerns about congested roads, crowded classrooms and insufficient water. The new plan recommends improvements to transportation -- particularly along routes 26 and 32, its major arteries -- and urges the county to finish connector and service roads to alleviate traffic backups.

"They have reached consensus, so they might as well move on," said Phil Bennett, who until recently was chairman of the Freedom Area Citizens Council, which serves as a liaison between the county and residents.

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