What Carroll County's commissioners would like most from a proposed Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan, a blueprint to guide growth in South Carroll, is to make certain it will accomplish its goals.
The county established Freedom Area - South Carroll - as its major growth area nearly 30 years ago and officials insist the county's most-populous area is developing according to plan.
Many of the 30,000 residents living there might disagree. They often complain of inadequate services, including a shortage of water and crowded schools and roads.
During their first public discussion of the proposed plan yesterday, the commissioners said they want to ensure that South Carroll gets the roads, schools, economic development and utilities it needs.
The commissioners took no action on the plan, which has been approved by the Carroll planning and zoning commission.
Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier wants to streamline the 11-chapter draft, which she called cumbersome.
"We should simplify," she said. "Have a map with goals and back it up. The meat is in the [zoning] map. It guides what happens."
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge wants assurances that the plan is understandable, particularly what uses are allowed on what land.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell would make the deepest cuts in the language, much of which he called "fluff."
"This is too serious a document for Carroll County to have it all fluffed up with recommendations," Dell said. "Many of the items are not master plan items to me. If we put them in there and mandate them, it is a mistake."
Dell would limit the document to land use and zoning. He does not want to be "obligated to a document we can't accomplish," he said. Such suggestions as a newsletter for residents and periodic surveys to determine prevailing attitudes have no place in the plan, he said.
Frazier said recommendations written into a plan but not followed make "us targets for criticism."
The commissioners seem to be taking the same tack with the Freedom plan as they did recently with the comprehensive master plan for Carroll, which also has not been adopted. The commissioners removed all recommendations from the master plan and placed them in a separate document that they may refer to but do not have to adopt.
The Freedom proposal is the result of more than two years' work by county planners and residents. They dealt with every aspect of community life in the 47-square-mile unincorporated area, which includes Eldersburg and Sykesville and is home to about 20 percent of Carroll's population.
Using a 1977 Freedom miniplan, which charted growth in South Carroll at the time, as a guide, they created a plan with many of the same directives.
"The 1977 plan was a far-reaching document for its time, but the criticism was much of it was not implemented," said Steven Horn, county director of planning. "This time we looked for ways to make sure those mistakes were not repeated."
Unfinished roads were a leading criticism and officials have recently budgeted several million dollars for South Carroll. The proposal details connector roads and alternative routes to the major arteries, primarily Routes 26 and 32.
Residents have crowded public hearings on the plan for the past two years and their input resulted in several changes, most notably tabling several rezonings that would have turned farmland into housing subdivisions.
Three major changes from the old plan are included: more industrial land near Route 97 at the western end of the planning area; an employment campus for high-tech and light industrial businesses at the state-owned Springfield Hospital Center, now zoned predominantly agricultural, in Sykesville; and a boulevard district along Route 26 in Eldersburg, which many consider the area's downtown.
"We have to look at Route 26 like a local Main Street," said Horn. "It still has to function as a commuter route, but it is also a commercial corridor."
The plan recommends parallel service roads that would allow local traffic easier access to the shopping centers and offices along Route 26.