Adding life to master plans

Vision: Suburban counties need master plans that focus on quality of life issues as well as land use.

February 23, 2000

BALTIMORE and Carroll counties are at different stages of planning their respective futures, yet both jurisdictions face the same issue. They need strategic plans that go far beyond the traditional land use documents.

Typically, master plans consist of maps and charts that show everything from zoning to transportation networks. But recently, forward-looking communities have assembled plans that place the information in a context that assists in making smart land-use decisions. Baltimore County's planning board wanted to broaden its master plan to include discussions of the gap between rich and poor residents, the aging population and the condition of the county's infrastructure. It is a good idea, and the County Council included many of these references in the final version of the plan.

The board wanted to include these and other "quality of life" sections in the plan because members correctly believed that these issues ultimately have a profound effect on future land use.

As passed by the council, the master plan offers a comprehensive perspective on the county and its future. It provides future policymakers with clear guidance on a wide range of county issues.

Carroll County is in dire need of a strategic plan that maintains and enhances existing communities and also allows for future development. A comprehensive plan that narrowly looks at land use will offer very little guidance in making decisions on schools, public safety, environmental and farmland preservation, transportation and other policy issues.

It's time to recognize that a county's master plan should be a blueprint for building and sustaining a high-quality community. Well-considered land-use decisions are but one -- albeit important -- aspect of that effort.

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