Carroll County's commissioners expressed reservations yesterday about a key component of the proposed Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan, a blueprint to guide growth in South Carroll, and suggested that the plan be drastically shortened.
"Most of the things in here, I agree with -- like access control, mixed [residential and commercial] uses, and trying to make things look pretty -- but I'm skeptical of the Boulevard District concept," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, noting the hardship it could place on business owners.
The proposed boulevard district would set architectural guidelines for businesses along Route 26 in Eldersburg, which many consider South Carroll's downtown. Intended to enhance the appearance of the business corridor, the new land-use designation would require business owners moving to the area or renovating their shops to incorporate particular types of street signs, building facades and shrubs.
"The boulevard district would give us guidelines as to what we would like to see develop there," county planning director Steven C. Horn told the board. "It would also give us some opportunities that we don't have now, like mixing commercial and residential uses."
Board President Julia Walsh Gouge suggested that South Carroll residents be given an opportunity to review guidelines for the proposed district before the commissioners act on the Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan.
"We should see how the people down there feel about it," Gouge said. "They are the ones who are going to have to live with it."
The commissioners took no action on the plan, which was approved last year by the county planning and zoning commission.
However, Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he would like to streamline the 154-page document.
"I think we could get this down to 20 pages," he said. "I'd like to get the fluff out of here."
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. Suggestions such as a newsletter for residents and periodic surveys to determine prevailing attitudes have no place in the plan, he said.
Frazier echoed his concerns and called for "a more condensed" plan.
"We need to simplify," she said. "We should have a document that's easy to understand."
The commissioners seem poised to edit the Freedom Plan in much the same way they did the master plan for Carroll. During their review of the countywide plan, the commissioners pushed to remove all strategies from the master plan and place them in a separate document. The planning panel did not comply with that suggestion, and instead renamed the strategies, calling them recommendations.
The Freedom proposal would set the first new development guidelines for the 47-square-mile area since 1977. The document is the result of more than two years of work by county planners and residents.
The county established Freedom -- which includes Eldersburg and Sykesville, and is home to about 20 percent of Carroll's population -- as its major growth area nearly 30 years ago.
Many of the 30,000 residents who live in the area often complain of inadequate services, including a shortage of water and crowded schools and roads.
The commissioners said they hope to adopt a comprehensive growth plan for the area by the end of the year.