Master plan review begins

125-page document intended to guide growth, land use

May 12, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

After a wait of two years, Carroll County's planning commission began its review yesterday of the proposed master plan for managing the county's rapid growth.

The panel is casting a critical eye on the 125-page plan proposed by the county commissioners, scrutinizing the document chapter by chapter.

After the planning commission approves the plan, the public will have 60 days to comment on it. The document will then be returned to the county commissioners, who can adopt or reject the plan but cannot make changes. They can send it back to the commission with recommendations.

"I see this as an opportunity for the planning commission to fill some gaping holes in the plan," county planning director Steve Horn told the panel during yesterday's two-hour work session. Horn suggested the panel consider drafting provisions that would better protect the conservation zone and agricultural land.

The county commissioners' proposal would establish the first new land-use guidelines in Carroll in 36 years. The plan would encourage, rather than direct, development to the county's eight towns and Finksburg, and eliminates all planning policies and strategies drafted by volunteer residents and county planners during two years of discussions.

The master plan was presented to a previous Board of County Commissioners in 1998. The former commissioners shelved the plan before the November election that year, leaving it for the current board to review.

State officials and political analysts have said the best master plans incorporate community comments, provide clear directions for growth and relate to local zoning laws.

The commissioners decided in March to begin a comprehensive rezoning of the county, independent of the master plan.

They also persuaded the planning commission to endorse a proposal that exempts small-scale commercial and industrial projects -- those involving less than a half-acre -- from review by the planning panel.

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