Commissioners Howard, Rothschild discuss proposed edits to Freedom Plan
By Jennifer Turiano
Carroll County Times|
Aug 30, 2018 | 6:05 PM
Commissioners Richard Rothschild and Doug Howard presented their proposed Freedom Plan edits to their fellow commissioners Thursday afternoon.
And through sharing their edits to the plan that will guide development in the Freedom Community Planning Area for the next 10 years, the two departing commissioners talked about their qualms with the plan that will affect their constituents: the fact that the majority of public comment from residents indicates they do not want high-density increases.
“We always have to be careful when we make planning decisions that we do it with full knowledge of the facts,” Rothschild said, “and what’s out there in the planning statistics.”
In his presentation, Rothschild pointed out that research performed by advertising, marketing and public relations company Devaney & Associates Inc. and SmartAsset shows Carroll County is the No. 1 best value in Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania for the past three years.
Rothschild also said, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, there were 87 homes listed as “active” in the Freedom area in July and that homes spend an average of 59 days on the market, “indicating that sales are robust and competitive.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission discussed the recent decision county commissioners made to take the Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan back from the commission after 10 months of work at its Aug. 29 meeting.
By Jennifer Turiano
Aug 29, 2018 | 8:30 PM
“These metrics clearly indicate these homes are ‘affordable’ to a vast segment of buyers that value the quality of lifestyle offered by Freedom’s existing communities,” he said.
That being said, Howard said the Freedom Plan should accomplish three things: that it reflects where the community is today, reflects what the community wants to see 20 to 30 years from now, and that it can be implemented in a reasonable time frame.
Rothschild and Howard added recommendations to limit increases in land-use densities to stave off road congestion and preserve the area’s character, and to keep from trying to fundamentally transform communities against their will. They also wanted to include the limitations of the Freedom Area’s sewer and water infrastructure capacity in areas of the plan where growth is discussed, and change the vision statement to better align with the community’s views.
In addition, Howard said agreeing on the role of government in Freedom’s development will become very important in the near future as well.
“The role of government — should it be our job to provide, promote and accommodate?” Howard asked. “It’s something we’ve got to agree on. That's going to describe a lot of what we are doing.”
He pointed out much of the 2017 version of the plan uses verbs like “encourage,” “provide,” “direct” and “enable.”
In the draft presented Thursday, many of those terms were replaced with other words: accommodate, refine, approve and support.
Other commissioners weigh in
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, came to the meeting after being criticized by the Planning and Zoning Commission, of which he is the ex-officio member, the night before. Members of the commission were concerned their work in the past 10 months would be lost as the commissioners were now going to edit the 2017 version of the plan, not the 2018 iteration.
He vowed to the commission that he would make sure their efforts got into the final draft.
Wantz told commissioners he didn’t see any drastic changes to the plan, just wordsmithing and clarification. But in the wake of blindsiding the planning commission by taking the plan back with no notice, Wantz said he wasn’t ready to make any decisions on the changes that morning.
“Personally, I'm not ready to make decisions on any of these things,” he said to his colleagues. “I don’t know [how] far we are going to get today, but at least we can make this list of changes and give us a chance to absorb that.”
Whatever wasn’t discussed Thursday will be addressed at their upcoming meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, he said, since the reason the plan was moved back to the commissioners was to get it completed faster.
Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, was concerned with the legality of the decision to take back the plan.
“We have a plan two commissioners put together here and we are going to be hearing this in one short period of time when we have an agency group put together to do this,” he said. “How does this fit together from the state’s point of view? The legal aspects of putting a comprehensive plan together?”
Howard said because the decision to remand the plan was rescinded, they are now left with the plan in its October 2017 form. That plan met state requirements, he said, and now they can use any of the planning commission’s work.
However, Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, voted against taking the plan back at last week’s meeting. He also contested many of this week’s edits and the way they were presented.
“I appreciate the work that was done in the presentation,” Frazier said. “But what we are trying to do is make changes to the plan, not fix certain things. I know the language isn’t used intentionally, but I don't like that it’s that way. A tremendous amount of work has gone into this and has been acknowledged — I don't look at it that we are fixing it, but making changes.”
Scaling back density increases, growth
Frazier also questioned scaling back on density increases and the language that supports growth.
“Are you going to take advantage of the money that was put into the Freedom Area from the county government to put infrastructure in the area?” he asked. “We’ve already laid the foundation for water and sewer in that area, and we’ve already spent millions of dollars putting that in there. It would seem we are throwing that away if you don’t plan for that investment.”
Howard said he wasn’t trying to stop growth, but make sure that it doesn’t outpace infrastructural needs.
When Howard and Rothschild said they wanted to remove a line in the plan stating a goal of the Freedom Plan is to “provide” housing of different varieties, Howard brought up the wordsmithing he wanted to do and the role of government again.
He said it was because it is not government’s job to “provide” housing. Rothschild said it was because the data Devaney found shows there is no shortage of affordable housing.
The Board of Carroll County Commissioners voted to take the Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan back from the Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday, to ensure it is finished before Commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 1 and Doug Howard, R-District 5 leave office in December.
By Jennifer Turiano
Aug 23, 2018 | 12:45 PM
Frazier said perhaps the word “provide” could be changed to “promote” because it is important to have affordable housing.
“I do hear from people all the time they cannot afford a house in Carroll County,” Frazier said. “That's why they are moving to Littlestown, Pennsylvania. Maybe they don't come out to public hearings, but I hear it all the time and I think we need to provide housing for people that are just starting off with their careers, and people that are just getting married, and that kind of thing. I think that’s an essential thing we should be promoting here in Carroll County. I guess you don't agree with me.”
He said they should at least make it possible for landowners to provide affordable housing if it is needed and the market allows it.
“What will happen and is happening,” Frazier said, “is the people in Carroll County will move out and go to Pennsylvania, and they will have families and they will not come back. We [will have] lost a whole generation because they don't have an affordable house in Carroll County to buy.”
After the discussion, the only public comment was from audience member Stephanie Brophy from developer Williams Quarters LLC.
“You have other opportunities to halt the [growth] process,” she said, “but to the extent you don’t designate it now, you are eliminating the possibility of growth in those areas. If you want larger houses on larger lots or larger houses on small lots, now is your opportunity to take the community vision and allow the community to grow in a way that is desirable.
“Commissioner Frazier is 100 percent right,” Brophy said. “We had young educated professionals … who don't have a place to live. And they leave and they’re not coming back. That is not the point, but it is one point.”