Carroll planning manager Mary Lane discusses new role, misconceptions, major projects

Mary Lane, planning manager with the Carroll County Department of Planning.
Mary Lane, planning manager with the Carroll County Department of Planning.

Planning, land use, comprehensive rezoning. It’s complicated stuff, even a little cryptic.

But for Mary Lane of the Carroll County Department of Planning, it’s been her every day for the past four years, leading working on the Freedom Plan and the countywide comprehensive rezoning.


Lane was recently promoted to the position of planning manager and the Times caught up with her to learn more about what it means to lead planning efforts in Carroll.

Q: Not everyone has the opportunity to interface with the Carroll County Department of Planning. How would you explain what it is that you do for folks who might be unfamiliar?

A: Most people realize that we are responsible for long-range land use, transportation, and water and sewer planning that are mandated by the state, but our department is actually involved in a variety of other efforts, including planning for bicycle and pedestrian needs, historic preservation, the safe routes to schools program, energy saver loan program and ongoing participation in various state and regional organizations.

Q: You recently took on a new role/got a promotion. Congratulations, first of all, but can you tell us a bit about your new position and the career arc that got you there?

A: My new position, planning manager, became available when the former bureau chief, Lynda Eisenberg, was officially appointed to the position of director of planning earlier this year. Her former position was slightly restructured to planning manager.

I have been with Department of Planning for four years, serving as project lead on a number of projects, including the Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan and the Comprehensive Rezoning effort. My role will expand to include direct supervision of staff, as well as oversight of additional projects.

Q: Are there common misconceptions about planning generally, or the planning process that you’d to clarify? Any of those questions you get asked time and again?

A: I believe that the most common misconception is that the goal of planning is to change or transform an area. In fact, some change is inevitable with advancements in technology, shifts in housing and employment trends, and new state and federal laws. Our job is to make recommendations for how the county can best move forward in light of these changes.

Another misconception is that our job as planners is complete with adoption of a plan; it is also our mission to implement the recommendations of the various plans. The best example of this is our current comprehensive rezoning effort, which converts the vision for land use in the plans to on-the-ground zoning.

Q: The county has had several large planning projects in recent years, from the Finksburg Corridor Plan, to the County Master Plan and, of course, the Freedom Plan. These just seem like monumental undertakings — how do you wrap your head around such large projects that can take so long and hinge on such detail?

A: One of the challenges with these types of projects is maintaining the momentum from their initiation to final approval. It is also critical to ensure involvement by interested citizens and appropriate officials from county, state, municipal and regional agencies throughout the process. And of course continuous coordination with the Planning Commission, who are responsible for final recommendations to the commissioners.

For the Freedom Plan, we developed a schedule and strategy for public outreach early in the process, and did our best to stay on task, solicit input, and keep all interested parties informed as the development of the plan progressed.

Q: Are there any upcoming projects you’ll be tackling in your new role that you’re particularly excited for?

A: I am very excited that we will be embarking on a long-range Countywide Transportation Master Plan later this spring. This Plan will allow us to take a comprehensive look at the state and county roads throughout Carroll, and prioritize the need for improvements. We will be working with other county and state agencies, the municipalities, and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, and it will be the first plan of this type for Carroll.


Q: You must spend a lot of time thinking about areas and uses in Carroll County professionally, but what about recreationally — do you have a favorite local attraction, corner of the county or vista point in Carroll?

A: My favorite areas of the county are the towns, especially downtown Westminster and Sykesville. I love their historic feel and the variety of activities.