Finksburg panel gives residents a satellite view of corridor plan

Aerial maps strengthen resolve to preserve land

January 25, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Finksburg residents will continue to push for land preservation and less residential development as Carroll County's revised master plan for the area makes its way through the approval process.

The Finksburg Planning Area Council, an unofficial liaison group between the community and the county, offered residents a satellite view of their neighborhoods in a computerized show organized by Martin Schmidt, council treasurer.

The presentation that showed their homes, community amenities and businesses through aerial maps last week only strengthened residents' resolve to preserve.

Schmidt gave residents a look at the geology and topography as well as the streams, roads and green spaces. His maps were so detailed that he was able to pinpoint the church where the council was meeting last week, right down to the gravestones in the adjoining cemetery.

"I want to show what is here today and what might be there in the future," he said. "This gives you a picture of what you can see, what is out there. You can see these patterns as you drive around, and you see they repeat."

Finksburg spreads across 28,000 acres on both sides of the Route 140 corridor from the Baltimore County line to Bethel Road.

It was once considered one of the county's prime growth areas, but it has not developed as significantly as Carroll's eight towns and the Freedom Area in South Carroll, mainly because it lacks public water and sewer and because it is entirely within the Liberty Reservoir watershed.

The county's proposed plan, dubbed the Finksburg Corridor Conservation Plan, focuses on development along Route 140, a state highway that is the area's main artery. Much of Finksburg's agricultural land is targeted for preservation programs.

"This presentation shows that Finksburg is not really suited for industrial use," said Debbie Ridgely, council president. "As the county proceeds with its corridor plan, these ideas should all be considered."

Schmidt started with a basic outline of Finksburg, inserted into a map of Carroll County. He overlaid the map with streams, roads, developed areas and green spaces. He showed how feeder streams to the reservoir crisscross the area. Liberty Reservoir is a source of drinking water for nearly 2 million people in the metropolitan area.

Through computer images, Schmidt detailed the tree buffers that protect and shade those streams as they cross tracts of open space and farmland.

"If you want to preserve open space, ag is the preservation we can do," Schmidt said. "We have to figure out what is the best job we can do to continue preservation."

Neil Ridgely, a Finksburg council member and Carroll's zoning administrator, said he would like to see Schmidt's presentation used as a planning tool as the county decides on appropriate land uses for the area.

Matthew W. Simmont, county planner, said he was impressed with the demonstration, but he has access to the same information. He has worked closely with the residents for more than three years on the corridor plan.

"We have maps with even more details and a field inventory of all properties in the district with their current uses," Simmont said.

He expects the draft proposal of the master plan to go before the Planning Commission this spring. The commission will send it out for a 60-day review to various state and county agencies and will schedule public hearings.

"That is when public participation really gears up," said Simmont.

Residents will continue to review the plan, and many said they intend to make recommendations.

Recent census figures put the population of Finksburg at about 18,000. Despite having no local government, residents want to be involved in the future of their community.

Since it formed in 1997, the Finksburg Planning Area Council has been the voice for residents, and it now has representation on the Carroll County Council of Governments, an umbrella group of county and municipal officials.

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