Finally -- after surviving the scrutiny of two boards of Carroll County commissioners, two county planning directors and countless citizens who worked for years on the document -- the county master plan, a guide for growth, is likely to be adopted tomorrow by the commissioners.
The commissioners are expected to adopt the plan during a routine meeting with Steven C. Horn, Carroll's planning director. Horn replaced Philip J. Rovang as head of the county planning department in February 1999, four years after Rovang and his staff started work on the plan.
"Let's get this thing adopted and move forward," Commissioner Donald I. Dell told Horn and his colleagues, Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Julia Walsh Gouge, last week.
"There have been enough delays."
The proposed master plan would direct development to Carroll's eight towns and unincorporated Finksburg, eliminate design standards for residential development to encourage creativity, and weaken strategies for protecting the county's historic sites.
Despite Gouge's objections, Dell and Frazier cut plans for a scenic roads map and a suggestion to hire a historic preservation planner.
The commissioners had hoped to adopt the master plan in September, but decided to hold a second public hearing on the 117-page plan because more than two years had passed since the previous public hearing in April 1998.
The final hearing was held Nov. 20, two months after the latest version of the master plan was approved by the county Planning and Zoning Commission. Several residents voiced support for the plan and urged the commissioners to adopt it.
Work on the master plan, which would set the first new development guidelines since 1964, began in December 1995 after two decades of rapid residential growth, particularly in Finksburg and the Freedom Area, which is what the South Carroll planning district is called.
Four teams of about 35 people each, including residents and professional planners, spent more than 2,100 hours analyzing the information that formed the basis of the document.
The planning commission approved the plan in June 1998 and sent it to the commissioners for adoption in July. Four months later, the commissioners deferred action until a new board was elected.
During the years of meetings and formal hearings, residents said they wanted a detailed master plan that would prohibit what they regarded as poorly planned development. Instead, the current board of commissioners chose to propose a plan without specific goals or policies.
The board wanted those items listed in a separate document as recommendations that it could refer to but would not be required to implement.
The planning commission refused to embrace that idea. Members of the panel demanded that the master plan be left largely intact to reflect the work of the people who devoted so many hours to it.
In the end, a compromise was struck. The commissioners agreed to include the proposed policies and goals but rename them "recommendations."
The change in wording was meant to indicate that the plan would be a guide, not a mandate, for growth.
"We are very pleased this long process is going to come to a close," said Jeanne Joiner, director of the Bureau of Planning.
As they move forward with adoption of the master plan, the commissioners are pushing to rezone three properties totaling about 403 mostly rural acres in the Liberty Reservoir watershed for industrial use.