The 2014 Carroll County Master Plan doesn’t need to be updated completely until 2024, but the county’s planning commission decided this week to make a few adjustments to bring it up to date.
Changes that Planning Director Lynda Eisenberg outlined include technicalities matching definitions with the recently adopted Freedom Plan and adding a small section to acknowledge the county’s utilization of solar energy.
“It is a living document, and it is not a static document,” said Eisenberg at the Planning Commission’s March 6 meeting, “and believe it or not, the development of the plan has been pretty much complete for five years. The adoption of the plan was four years ago in 2015.
“But some things have changed,” she said.
She said now is the time to get the amendment done, so inconsistencies between the county master plan and others — like the Freedom Plan — don’t interfere with the ongoing comprehensive rezoning and accurately represent Carroll.
One of those inconsistencies is the elimination of the “Very Low Density” land use designation from the Freedom Plan that was created to encompass residential clusters in agricultural areas. The designation was for residential subdivisions with lot sizes between 1 and 10 acres.
According to the Freedom Plan those areas now have agricultural land use designations — but they are still labeled Very Low Density in the Carroll County Master Plan.
“I remember not being entirely thrilled [when they were first changed to Very Low Density],” said commission member Dan Hoff Wednesday, “because I had this whole argument about the concept of development in the ag zone. Houses are allowed in ag; the reason it’s clustered together is that's what ag is supposed to be.”
He said he was OK with removing the Very Low Density designation.
Planning Commission Chair Richard Soisson suggested adjusting the Freedom Plan, however — because the residential communities in the agricultural zones should be recognized as residential.
But that wouldn’t be easy, Eisenberg said. Making changes to the Freedom Plan would be a challenging process.
Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, wasn’t a member of the Board of Carroll County Commissioners when the plan was adopted in October, so he told the group he would do his due diligence as the Planning Commission’s liaison to look into the pros and cons of both options.
“I will have the risk evaluated, and the value associated with it, and come back to you with what I'm going to be recommending moving forward and have further discussion on it,” Rothstein said.
“I don’t want to shut the door saying we should not go back to the Freedom Plan — or to go back,” he said.
Eisenberg said another idea could be to perform an ag study so that the county can see what agricultural properties are used for, what they need, and how they could be best categorized to determine the future of agriculture for Carroll County.
“It’s a good catalyst to start with this vision,” Rothstein said, “because if you don't have the vision you don't know when you're having the successes and you don't know when you're having failures.”
Eisenberg and county planning staff will return with drafted maps, language for the solar section and updated definitions to the Planning Commission’s May meeting, she told them Wednesday.
Once the commission approves the amendment, it will go to public comment for 60 days before it is forwarded to the Board of Carroll County Commissioners and accepted.