Masters of the plan

Carroll County: Commissioners' reaction is a slap in face to those who drafted land-use plan.

November 18, 1999

CARROLL County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier put it this way: the county's master plan for land use should not be a management plan. By her definition, it shouldn't tie the hands of the commissioners regarding growth. Only broad platitudes and goals should be in it, with enough escape clauses so the commissioners can do what they wish.

If that's the board's view of what a master plan should be, who needs it? What purpose would it serve? Two years of hard work by citizen volunteers and county staff on developing the comprehensive master plan has been mostly ignored. Instead of thanks, more than 100 citizens have been given the back of the hand by county government.

The commissioners started all over to draft their own version, without detailed restrictions on their zoning or management powers. They want the document to be short, listing only nonspecific objectives. The commissioners want no maps of proposed rezoning with the plan, declaring they will undertake that separate task themselves.

The proposed master plan, completed 17 months ago, is a respectable product. There are some contradictions, some wording problems. It's a bit too long. But there's ample opportunity for the planning commission to address these defects.

Legally, the commissioners cannot change the proposed master plan; they can only accept or reject it. The last board of commissioners "postponed" a decision on the proposed plan, passing the buck to the new board.

The new commissioners declined to take up the proposal. They reviewed the subject from scratch. They are drafting their own plan, which will go to the planning commission for pro forma approval and then legally returned to them for adoption.

Meantime, the commissioners have a freer hand in piecemeal land-use decisions. The need for a new county master plan is long overdue. Such a document is a major restraint on hodgepodge development. The absence of a meaningful one compromises Carroll's future.

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