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Carroll County Master Plan nearing completion; planning commission to meet, recieve future land use plans March 5

It's been a long road to complete an update to the 2000 Carroll County Master Plan, but the Carroll County Planning Commission is on the brink of finally doing it.

The planning commission is scheduled to meet March 5 to receive one of the last and most controversial chapters of the plan - the future land uses for properties in Carroll. The land use maps in the chapter will show people what areas staff and property owners have recommended will be able to sustain growth, foster agricultural preservation and be developed for business, industrial and residential uses in the future.

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Rezonings follow the approval of land-use designation changes in the plan.

Lynda Eisenberg, chief of the county's Bureau of Comprehensive Planning, said during a planning commission meeting Tuesday that county staff has taken a very close look at all properties in Carroll and tried to determine the best future land uses.

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"We're trying to go meticulously throughout the county looking parcel by parcel to see, does this make sense moving forward, does this meet our goals and objectives for commercial, industrial, conservation, residential," Eisenberg said.

Phil Hager, director of the county's Department of Land Use, Planning and Development, said a lot of factors are weighed when a future land use map is developed. Planning staff look at each property and factor in components such as parcel size, water availability, distance from roadways and the results of a land suitability analysis.

Hager said Carroll's Department of Economic Development worked with property owners to get their input and learn more about what the they planned to do with their properties in the future.

Working with the county's economic development staff was also critical to determining what areas were capable of growth and development, Hager said.

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Planning commission chairman Alec Yeo said he was pleased that the county's economic development staff was brought in to the master plan process and that they were able to bring their expertise to the table. Economic development factors had not been considered in previous attempts to develop a master plan, Yeo said.

The only person currently on the planning commission who had worked on the county's previous master plan draft in 2011, Yeo said the financial impact was a component that had to be included in the new master plan.

"The fact that [the financial impact] is an integral part of this solves a huge problem we identified before and it's great that it's there," he said.

The planning commission will get to review the future land use chapter and be able to make changes to the maps. Once the planning commission reviews the entire draft plan, it will be sent out for a 60-day review process that will include meetings with the community. Then it will be up to the Board of Commissioners to pass or reject the plan.

The master plan has not been successfully updated since 2000. First, the county developed an ambitious comprehensive plan, known as Pathways to Carroll's Future Landscape. But Pathways was abandoned in October 2009 following resident protests about a proposal in the plan to rezone a few large tracts of land to be developed into business parks.

Staff then began making a new draft of the master plan. In 2011, the newly elected five-member board of commissioners unanimously rejected the second draft because it was concerned with the plan's direction.

"We are focused, very much, on trying to get this product out the door," Hager said of the updated master plan. "We are under significant constraints, particularly in regards to time, and we are trying to move this thing forward."

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