In the coming weeks, the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning will unveil the master plan for guiding land use in the county in the coming years.
Devising this guide, no doubt, has been tedious, making the county reflect its vision will require an even more tedious process.
To date, the county government has held a series of community planning meetings, which took place last winter and were attended by about 50 people, and another 280 comments via the Internet. Taking into account these comments, the development situation as it exists today and, presumably, the rules of good municipal planning, the county planners have been devising the draft master plan, which will be presented on line and in county library branches starting Oct. 10. Come Oct. 20, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., there will be an informational workshop on the plan at Harford Community College in the Chesapeake Center.
Eventually, the Harford County Council will act on the master plan, and from there more detailed plans, rules, policies and regulations are devised and zoning classifications end up being assigned to or updated on particular tracts of land. Tedious, indeed.
As was noted on this page last winter, though, this tedious process is supremely important for everyone who lives in the county. It will determine if neighborhoods now regarded as being on the rural fringe of suburbia eventually end up becoming more urban. It will set the tone for what kinds of residential, commercial and industrial development will take place and where.
But slow though the process of devising these land use plans may seem, it is relatively speedy compared to the process of changing the face of the county. Decisions made 10, 20 and even 30 years ago on similar documents are coming to fruition only in modern times. For example, the planning rules that allowed for huge amounts of residential development along the old Route 24 Corridor eventually necessitated the building of a new Route 24 and a renaming of old Route 24 to 924. And the need to deal with the change has continued, as evidenced by the major intersection realignment where Route 24, Route 924, Tollgate Road and the I-95 interchange come together.
Such things can be foreseen in the planning process, but typically governments are loathe to spend money to build infrastructure until after there's a need (or a problem). Yet the pressure to develop and the promise of tax money from that development, not to mention the campaign contributions of the developers, often open territory to development, even if the infrastructure isn't likely to be upgraded until after the developers are done.
Which brings us back to the master plan expected to be revealed to the public come Oct. 10. To date, other than government officials, it has been based on input from about 330 people (presuming the 280 Internet comments were all from different people). The fraction of a percentage of the county's population that this represents is tiny, and this is a shame because so many people feel so strongly about their particular visions for the county. Many people moved to the county attracted by its rural character, even as their arrival made it more suburban. Many others rely on development to make their livings; the home building industry has long been a leading employer in Harford County.
Anyone who feels strongly one way or another about the county's future would do well to get up to speed on the tedious matter of land use planning, and then offer a few comments on what's being proposed. The future of the county, after all, depends on it.