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Freedom Plan public hearing brings South Carroll out for comment

Carroll County Times

For the first time since the Board of County Commissioners took the Freedom Plan back from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the plan went to a public hearing.

And residents, although thankful the commissioners scaled back growth somewhat, came out to say they are still largely dissatisfied with the state of development in the Freedom Area.

“My husband and I are dairy farmers and we are dedicated to agriculture,” stated local resident Susan Harrison, the first speaker at the South Carroll Senior Center on Oct. 3. “It is our life and it is our livelihood, but this property’s location has made it not feasible to farm anymore. It is dangerous for my family members to try to move farm equipment to and from this property, just as it’s dangerous for people traveling these roads because of slow moving equipment.

“I ask you to please make my property consistent to the surrounding properties [medium density], as was done in the 2017 study.”

Linda Fino said she was concerned with the view out her window when she opens the curtains in the morning.

“Every morning I open my curtains, and when I used to see nothing but gorgeous woods, I see workmen out there just knocking down trees, and all the noise,” said Fino. “My question is: If and when I sell my property — which is probably going to be sooner rather than later — what is it going to be worth? And when I open my windows, is it going to be a parking lot with lights coming through my windows?”

But even more than that, resident Jennifer Meyer, who just moved with her family from New Town, said she is concerned about her children.

“I didn’t know when I bought my house off of Rolling View Drive, directly across from the easement to the Beaty property — which is now zoned a high-density commercial property — that I was moving into this,” she said.

“That property is directly across from my driveway,” Meyer said, “my driveway where my girls ride their bike down every day. From my front porch, I overlook the cornfield at the Beaty property. My fear is in two, four, eight, 10 years — what kind of view will I have from Rolling View Drive? Are you going to be changing the name to ‘Overlooks a Gas Station-Mall-Service Center-Restaurant’ ?”

She also wanted to know where all the new kindergartners will go when her daughter’s elementary school is already at capacity.

Also at the meeting were property owners and their representatives requesting density changes.

Attorney Clark Shaffer spoke on behalf of the Gibson family, asking for high or medium density land use designations, and Joseph Laney requested his properties by Md. 97 and the Carroll County Gun Club be industrial.

Heidi Beaty Condon, of the family that owns the Beaty property many residents spoke of that evening, said she was concerned about why the high-density housing the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended was dropped to medium density by commissioners when her family’s property is well-suited for the development.

“We are lifelong members of this community and plan to remain here for the remainder of our lives,” she said. “We want to create a beautiful neighborhood, the same as what we felt when we grew up here in Eldersburg.”

Her family’s land is the perfect place to do it, she said, with the beautiful landscape and sunsets.“We do not understand how [you could make it medium-density] when our property is in the designated growth area,” said Condon.

And still others requested that the board drop its goal to get the Freedom Plan approved before December altogether.

The Board of County Commissioners took the Freedom Plan in progress — a 10-year master plan for the Freedom Area — from the Planning and Zoning Commission in late August in an effort to finish it before commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and Doug Howard, R-District 5, leave office at the end of the year.

After taking the plan back, commissioners made a few changes and voted on Sept. 13 to send it to a public hearing.

Richard France said he felt the plan couldn’t be completed while the county’s comprehensive zoning update is not be finished yet.

“I implore you put the community’s interest first, rather than another notch in your resume’s belt,” said France. “Secondly, I want to know what guarantee the Board of Commissioners is giving us that the designated land use will be as designed, due to largely outdated land-use definitions.

“As I see it, this plan is not very different from the Planning Commission’s version,” he said. “It gives power to developers to decide what to build and where it’s another case with the cart before the horse.

“Please I beg each of you, pump the brakes on this plan. Put the community first.”

There were also comments about the plan’s coverage in the newspaper, with residents, saying the Times has not written enough about the county’s largest unincorporated area’s master plan.

And Board of Education candidate Mary Kowalski said she was still checking the Carroll County government website to see when there would be an informational session for commissioners and the planners to actually explain the plan to the residents and ask questions.

Her comment was in response to a resident who asked a question and was told by commissioners they would not be answering questions that evening.

“You’ve had this plan for four years,” Kowalski said. “Now you’re doing a political hit-and-run.

“Is this fair to the citizens?” she asked. “You just put it out Sept. 11, a little more than two weeks ago, and now we’re supposed to give intelligent input? In two weeks we are supposed to digest a 200-page plan and give intelligent input? First of all we need an informational meeting where you answer questions. This is not rocket science, it’s a political hit-and-run because here’s what happens: We get a new board in two months and they’re going to be the ones to implement the plan.”

And when residents complain, she said, they will give the age-old reply: “ ‘I agree with you ma’am, I agree with you sir, but it’s out of my hands but blame the previous board.’ ”

After the meeting, Rothschild took ownership of not explaining the plan to the community well enough.

“Most of what people complained about has already been fixed,” he said. “All of the high density has been changed to medium density.

“We should have done a 10-minute presentation of the changes before the hearing.”

The draft land-use map which encompasses all the changes made so far can be found on the Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan website, www.freedomareaplan.org.

After receiving comments at the public hearing, commissioners will vote to adopt the plan on or before Oct. 23.

jennifer.turiano@carrollcountytimes.com

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