Carroll commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to allow county planners to tweak wording in the proposed blueprint for growth in South Carroll, the Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan, and present the document to the county planning commission for final approval.
"It's a good opportunity for us to review, revise and update a plan that was approved a year and a half ago by the planning commission," said county Planning Director Steven C. Horn. "I think a better plan will result from this process."
The commissioners directed Horn to update statistics and maps in the plan and change wording in the document so it is consistent with the recently reworked, and soon to be adopted, master plan for Carroll.
After a nine-month review of the countywide plan, and under pressure from the county's planning commission, the board renamed the strategies outlined in the document, calling them recommendations. The commissioners initially wanted to delete the strategies.
A similar change in wording in the plan would indicate to South Carroll residents that the plan is a guide, not a mandate, for development.
The commissioners also directed Horn to ask the county planning commission to delete references to the proposed widening of Route 97 in Woodbine. Howard County objects to the long-proposed project, and State Highway Administration officials dropped the idea several years ago.
The plan calls for improvements to Route 26 in Eldersburg, which many regard as South Carroll's downtown. Proposed improvements include additional traffic lanes and creation of a "boulevard district," which would set architectural guidelines for businesses requiring the use of certain street signs, building facades and shrubs.
Another element of the proposed plan is the concept of an "employment campus," which would combine light manufacturing and commercial uses that support industry.
The plan would set the first growth 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 volunteer residents.
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier had repeatedly said they would like to limit the Freedom Plan to land use and zoning. However, the board decided against gutting the 154-page document - a course of action that might have riled members of the planning commission - and unanimously agreed to instead issue an "executive summary" of the plan. The commissioners would like the planning commission to incorporate the 12-page summary into the plan.
The county established the Freedom Area - which includes Sykesville and Eldersburg - as its major growth area nearly 30 years ago. With about 30,000 residents, the area is home to approximately 20 percent of Carroll's population.
The commissioners have said they would like to adopt a comprehensive growth plan for the area by the end of the year. However, the planning commission must first approve the document and a public hearing must be held before the commissioners take action.