Planning commission talks new vision for Freedom plan

At its Tuesday meeting, the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission once again took up the vision statement for the Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan.

The updated Freedom plan, which will provide long-term guidance for land use and development in the South Carroll area, was approved by the planning commission in July after more than a year of work.


The plan was then sent to Carroll’s Board of County Commissioners to consider for final adoption after making any changes, but the commissioners decided certain aspects of the plan they disagreed with were best handled by the planning commission. The plan was remanded to the planning commission on Oct. 3.

On Nov. 9, the county commissioners sent the planning commission a letter clarifying the issues with the Freedom plan they hoped to see the commission address, first of which was the vision statement. The letter asked the commission to “revisit the vision statement to better reflect recent community feedback, paying closer attention to the quality of life priorities that originally attracted citizens to Freedom.”

The Freedom plan vision statement, as written in the plan previously approved by the planning commission, reads: “Freedom is a safe, close-knit community where open spaces, natural preserves and heritage characterize and connect neighborhoods, and support a vibrant central business and commercial core which resonates with the community identity, sense of place and quality of life.”

The planning commission first took up the vision statement with regard to the commissioners’ clarifying letter at a Nov. 29 meeting and jumped back into it on Tuesday.

“I didn’t know if the second portion, where it talks about supporting a vibrant, central business and commercial core,” said planning commission member Alec Yeo, “really fits what I was feeling captured the thoughts of those in the area.”

Much of the business along Md. 26 and Md. 32 in Eldersburg exists because people need them to survive, Yeo said, and they don’t function as a destination downtown.

“If we were to describe to somebody we met on vacation what we like about our community, we wouldn’t say, ‘We have a vibrant central business commercial core,’ ” Yeo said.

People might instead talk about what great schools are in the Freedom area, Yeo added, before reading his proposed vision statement revision: “Freedom is a safe, close-knit community where family values, dedication to education and the enjoyment and preservation of our natural preserves and heritage, characterize and connect our neighborhoods. Development is balanced to encourage the commerce necessary to support our growing community while preserving the integrity of the community’s identity, sense of place and quality of life.”

Richard Soisson, vice chair of the planning commission, had his own, slightly different take.

“Provide a quality of life that promotes a safe community dedicated to education, and the preservation of the rural and natural environment, as well as balanced economic develop and growth by supporting a vibrant central business and commercial core and a variety of housing options,” he read to the meeting.

Planning commission member Gene Canale said he liked Soisson’s take.

“Here’s what the community wants, but don’t forget we have to support what the county needs,” Canale said. “Blending those two together is very difficult, but it’s what we need to do. I think this captures it.”

County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, attended Tuesday’s meeting in an unofficial capacity, as a citizen in the audience. He did, however, provide a suggested take on the vision statement to County Chief of Planning Lynda Eisenberg during the meeting, which she read to the planning commission members.

“Freedom preserves the feel of a safe, small town, with its many spacious communities; high quality of life; high-performing schools; and recreational opportunities,” Eisenberg read from the provided statement. “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.”


This suggested vision statement revision Rothschild provided and which Eisenberg presented to the planning commission Tuesday had been crafted on Nov. 1 by a group of eight at “a citizen’s home in Eldersburg,” according to Rothschild, a gathering that he also attended.

"The people of Freedom came to Carroll in search of a more rural and relaxed lifestyle,” Rothschild wrote in an email. “Their wishes need to be respected."

Rothschild had previously taken issue with the way the planning commission was addressing the vision statement, particularly with regard to housing density. At the planning commission’s Nov. 29 meeting where the vision statement revision first came up, Canale noted that the commissioners’ standards could be difficult to follow.

“How do we know what really attracted citizens to Freedom?” he said.

Rothschild brought this up to his fellow commissioners at their Nov. 30 meeting.

“A year into this plan, I would hope that we know what originally attracted citizens to Freedom,” he said. “I will speak for myself, because there may be commissioners that don’t agree with me, but having been in Carroll County for 22 years I know why people moved here from the surrounding counties. They were in search of a more rural, more relaxed lifestyle, with less density, less urbanization, less traffic and less congestion.”

Not all of his fellow commissioners did agree with Rothschild, with Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, taking issue with Rothschild’s assertion.

“Unless we are going to invoke some sort of a survey or something like that, there is just no serious way to say, ‘This is what brought people here,’ ” Howard said at that Nov. 30 meeting. “We can talk about what people told us, we can talk about our own experiences, but the fact is we really don’t know.”

The planning commission will continue to work on the vision at upcoming meetings after Soisson suggested a way county planning staff could help.

“What I am asking you guys to do is to take all of that information,” he said, “all of those comments and come up with maybe two different vision statements and the next time we talk about this we can actually finish it.”