The mood among the small group residents who attended an informational meeting on Finksburg's long-stalled Corridor Plan, held at Sandymount United Methodist Church on Jan. 14, was one of weariness and polite skepticism.
"I'm astounded at all the people here tonight, because a lot of us have just been beaten down," said longtime Finksburg resident and former county employee Neil Ridgely.
"I've been associated with this plan for 10 years," Ridgely added. "We have been going through this for a long, long time. .... Residents really do want to see a plan that corrects the problems we have."
All told, there were about two dozen in attendance at the meeting. Among them were two county planners, District 2 County Commissioner Haven Shoemaker, who represents the Finksburg area (and cast a minority vote in favor of the previous draft of the plan), and several members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, including Chairman Alec Yeogh.
The purpose of the Corridor Plan, as Phil Hager, Carroll's Director of Land Use, Planning and Development, explained at the Monday night meeting, is to set goals and guide development along the eastern portion of Route 140 in Carroll County. That road is used daily by approximately 46,000 commuters and is the closest thing the unincorporated Finksburg area has to a main street.
Hager emphasized that even if and when a version of the plan is approved by the Commissioner Board, it will still only serve as a guideline and not a legally binding regulatory document.
The most recent cycle of public hearings, workshops and planning sessions to update the 1981 Finksburg Area and Environs Comprehensive Plan started back in 2009.
But the arduous process of implementing a new plan came to a screeching halt in late 2011 when the Carroll County Board of Commissioners rejected the draft that resulted from the months of hearings and workshops and was approved by the Carroll County Planning & Zoning Commission.
Then, in September of 2012, the Commissioner Board reversed its earlier decision and instead remanded the draft plan back to the Planning Commission for extensive revisions. That decision, at least from many Finksburg residents' points of view, seriously reduced the plan's reach and scope.
Ridgely reminded the group that the failed efforts to replace and update the 1981 plan began way back to 2000. He also pointed out that the current draft of the 61-page plan has "half the pages" of the previous version, which was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in October, 2010 and rejected by the Board of Commissioners shortly thereafter.
The Corridor Plan, according to language contained within the current draft, was to provide "a long-range planning document that will guide the growth and development of the Finksburg corridor."
The corridor is "roughly defined" as the area along Route 140 from the Baltimore County line to the east, to Kays Mill Road to the west.
More specific objectives of plan were identified by community members during several years of public hearings and planning sessions that went into drafting the earlier, rejected version of the plan.
These goals include:
• encouraging redevelopment in order to promote new commercial activity within the corridor,
• strengthening the boundaries of the corridor by natural resource protection and land preservation,
• improving the efficiency and safety of traffic patterns on heavily traveled Route 140 so as to reduce its negative impact on community-based economic and social activity.
Another objective is to encourage design and transportation improvements along the Route 140 corridor to promote a "gateway" concept for the area.
Last week, as at past meetings, public comments and suggestions were both specific and sweeping.
One concern that was voiced was that new developments in Finksburg did not include sidewalks and that bicycle lanes should be incorporated into the area's roadways.
Another suggestion was for the busy Route 140/ Route 91 intersection to be reconfigured with a Route 91 overpass over Route 140.
Yeogh replied that was unlikely to happen "during our lifetimes," considering the current scarcity of state highway funds.
Several residents, who did not give their names, commented on the commercial sprawl that defines the Route 140 corridor between the Baltimore County line and the Route 91 intersection.
"It's not known for its welcoming environment," one resident said.
Some expressed chagrin that a set of building design guidelines specifically designed to address this sprawl had been removed from the plan by the Board of Commissioners before remanding it back to the Planning & Zoning Commission
Another resident was greeted with at least one loud "Amen!" when he described the Route 140 commercial corridor in the Finksburg area as "an embarrassment, really ... an eyesore."
County Land Use Director Phil Hager urged residents to submit their comments to the county and said he hopes to schedule another public hearing on the plan within a few weeks.
The current draft of the Corridor Plan is available online at ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/compplan/finksburg.
Copies also are available at the Finksburg Library, 2265 Old Westminster Pike, Finksburg; and at the Department of Planning, Room 205 of the County Office Building, 225 North Center St.., Westminster.
For more detailed information, call county planner Andrea Gerhard at 410-386-2145.