Commissioners come to agreement for Freedom Plan's vision
By Jennifer Turiano
Carroll County Times|
Sep 04, 2018 | 4:55 PM
After about 3½ hours, the Board of County Commissioners agreed on the Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan’s vision statement Tuesday — but there are almost 30 other items they’ve listed to discuss before the draft will be ready.
Commissioners took the Freedom Plan — a 10-year master plan for the Freedom Area — from the Planning and Zoning Commission about two weeks ago in efforts to finish it before the end of the year, and Commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and Doug Howard, R-District 5, made notes to the document to share with their colleagues this week.
“Freedom is a suburban and rural community with a high quality of life, high-performing schools, and recreational opportunities,” reads the vision statement commissioners tentatively and unanimously agreed upon Tuesday.
“Growth is carefully managed to protect quality of life, values, promote sense of place and preserve character of existing communities while supporting measured, balanced commercial development and employment opportunities.”
The final sentence of the vision statement borrows from the Carroll County Master Plan, which states, “Carroll County values, and citizens’ unalienable rights of life, liberty, and property, are respected, protected, and sustained.”
Rothschild and Howard wanted to delete the recommendation the Planning and Zoning Commission had to “encourage a variety of housing types and densities to serve all ages, particularly the aging population and families with young children,” stating it was not government’s job to encourage that.
“I’d change ‘encourage a variety’ to ‘allow potential for [a variety],’ ” Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said. “I’m saying ‘allow potential for’ so it’s not advocating or encouraging it, but if it happens, it’s in the plan.”
Commissioners agreed to make the change, and to add at the end of the sentence, “consistent with the vision statement of this plan.”
Other recommendations agreed upon include that “increases to densities will be generally limited in order to mitigate the impact on traffic and existing infrastructure” and that in “recognizing that Freedom is a suburban/rural area, government will respect the character of the community and its neighborhoods.”
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said at the rate the board was working, the plan could be finished up at the next meeting.
But Frazier said “I think the [densities of the Beatty, Gibson, Luers, Schneider and Wolf] properties will take the most time.”
“I think the good thing is we all have an idea of what we want to do,” said Howard. “We might be closer than we think.”
The board has a list of about 30 items to be discussed at future meetings.
One of those items is a proposal to add a new land use designation in Freedom for schools. The conservation designation is used across the county for the institutions, and Howard and Rothschild said they wanted to call them what they are: schools.
“So you’re suggesting creating a new category that’s just schools?” Wantz asked. “Let’s just call it what it is.”
“The school land use designation will also include other low-impact, residentially-friendly alternative uses that enable the county to reuse existing locations in ways that complement adjacent neighborhoods,” Rothschild said.
Howard said it was high time the board discussed land use designations for schools — after North Carroll, New Windsor Middle and Charles Carroll Elementary schools closed at the end of 2016 and the municipalities are tasked with finding new uses for the facilities.
“If a school ceases to be a school,” said Howard, “the property should be used for something similar to what’s around it.”
But nothing would be a principal permitted use, Rothschild said, it would be conditional if the change were accepted by commissioners.
Continuing the conversation about land use designations, Rothschild said the 2017 definitions provided by the P&Z Commission would be replaced with the 2018 definitions the commission worked on this year.
Rothschild also said he wanted to change the section describing affordability and housing variety. The way it is framed, he said, turned the high costs of houses into a negative quality instead of a positive one.
“Freedom has evolved into one of the most sought-after bedroom communities north of Interstate 70,” Rothschild said. “If we have houses that are selling well, in 18 days, it’s not a bad thing. It shouldn’t be used to justify apartments or further an agenda.”
At the next meeting, the board will discuss the remaining items on their list of discussion topics and try to come to an agreement on proposed changes to the plan. To support their decisions and provide context, commissioners said they will consider adding a “Snapshot of Today” to the appendix.
Howard also said there should be an implementation section, where specific steps for implementing the plan will be included, as well as a list of tasks to be completed before the next plan is written — like traffic studies and a way to get community input earlier on in the process.