About 60 people attended the first public meeting on the county's master plan update last week, a figure planners found encouraging but local activists found wanting.
"We need more turnout. The citizens have to be invested in their community or it just doesn't work," said Charles Day, a farmer who worked on the Dublin-Darlington Community Council during the last master plan review, in 1996. Residents who don't get involved, then don't like the results of the review have little room for complaint, he said.
"As a community, we wind up with no one to blame but ourselves," Day said.
Planning officials Anthony McClune and Peter Gutwald briefed the audience on how the review process works and how it is supposed to guide growth. McClune described the plan as "a guide for the County Council to follow" as it considers comprehensive rezoning changes in the summer.
The meetings are divided into a presentation about the process, then small sessions allowing residents to express concerns and talk with planning staff members.
Elise Andrews of Havre de Grace, a Towson University student who is studying for a master's degree in planning, said she did not feel her questions about setting measurable development goals were answered during the session.
She said a strong plan sets percentages for types of housing and development that would be allowed in the master plan and calls for monitoring the county's adherence to those figures.
She pointed out that the current master plan does not contain such provisions.
As the session ended Wednesday night at Havre de Grace High School, planner Janet Gleisner said the first meeting quickly turned up ideas for subsequent sessions.
She said putting priorities on the list of concerns would be a key goal of these first meetings, to help guide the planning department as it assembles a draft master plan this summer.
Gleisner said she was looking for the issues that consistently "come to the top; that's where we're going to have to find the best solutions."
Land-use plan public meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at North Harford High School, 211 Pylesville Road, Pylesville; April 16 at Joppatowne High School, 555 Joppa Farm Road; and April 23 at Bel Air High School, 100 Heighe St. Information: Department of Planning and Zoning, 410-638-3103.