Earlier this month, Taneytown residents packed into their Senior and Community Center to learn if and how the 2014 Carroll County Master Plan draft would affect their lives. The overwhelming majority were worried that the plan would pave the way for construction of a new plasma gasification plant just outside of town.
The purpose of the master plan, which has not been updated since 2000, is to lay out a strategy for making improvements to public infrastructure and allowing for private development of land. The most important, and often the most controversial, aspect of the plan is the chapter on land use.
Every comprehensive plan is required to have a future land-use designation map in it. The map shows people what areas the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission has determined able to sustain growth, foster agricultural preservation and be developed for business, industrial and residential uses.
Zoning changes follow the adoption of the master plan, according to Phil Hager, director of the county Department of Land Use, Planning and Development. But before any land is rezoned, it must go through a separate process that takes about two years, Hager said.
Taneytown disposal plant
The Sept. 9 meeting in Taneytown focused on proposed changes to land-use designations and, possibly in the future, rezoning. The Carroll County Board of Commissioners has stressed that it did not want to change any property owner's land-use designation unless it was requested by the property owner.
Frank and Julia Feeser, who have land alongside Crouse Mill Road, requested that their property's future land-use designation be changed from agriculture to heavy industrial. Once the designation is changed, the property owners would be able to request a rezoning so that they could build a plasma gasification plant, which would dispose of municipal waste.
The request was included in the 2014 master plan and was the main topic of discussion at the Taneytown meeting.
Taneytown and nearby residents expressed concern over the noise, smell, traffic and general discomfort they would experience if a plasma gasification plant was built on the edge of the Taneytown city limits.
Hager stressed that even if the master plan was adopted with the land-use change, the property owners would still need to go through a public and open process if they wanted its zoning changed in the future.
Planning Commission Chairman Alec Yeo attended the meeting and said he welcomed feedback from the public about the proposed future land-use change, encouraging those in attendance to send in comments.
The planning commission will not approve a plan, Yeo said, unless it is comfortable with it.
"The purpose of these sessions is so that we could hear your input and make those changes," Yeo said at the Sept. 9 meeting. "[The plan] is not done until we hear what the public has to say."
Focus on industrial land
One of the main goals the planning commission had in developing the future land-use designation map was increasing the amount of commercial, industrial and employment campus land, planning commission member Richard Soisson said.
The county wants more commercial, industrial and employment campus land because those types of properties bring in more tax revenue without using up too many county services.
"It gives [the Carroll County Department of Economic Development] more of an opportunity to get businesses into the county if there are more options for them to have businesses in different areas," Soisson said. "If you have a limited commercial-industrial amount of property, it's much more difficult to [get them here]. We need to try to provide as much commercial-industrial properties as feasible."
The 2014 Carroll County Master Plan allots for 640 more acres of properties with the future land-use designation of industrial and 243 more acres of business than the 2000 plan did.
Shrinking growth areas
County staff has said, time and time again, that not much in the 2014 draft has changed from the 2000 Carroll County Master Plan. But there are nearly 18,000 new acres of land included into the 2014 Carroll County Master Plan that were not in the previous plan.
That's a result of the county's designated growth areas' shrinking, according to the master plan.
Since the first master plan was adopted in 1964, the county has directed development into and around the county's nine designated growth areas, or DGAs, while retaining Carroll's rural character and agricultural heritage. Designated growth areas are small geographic areas where the majority of Carroll's planned residential, commercial and industrial development is currently concentrated and future growth is planned.
Carroll's eight municipalities generally serve as the geographical center of the county's DGAs. The exceptions are Sykesville, which is located along the southern boundary of the Freedom DGA, and the Finksburg DGA, which does not contain a municipality in it.
Carroll County Breaking News
County spokeswoman Roberta Windham said the planning commission chose to shrink the size of the county's nine DGAs to accommodate current and future growth with regard to water resources.
That meant that nearly 18,000 more acres of land were added into the master plan, and taken out of the individual DGA comprehensive plans.
The 2014 Carroll County Master Plan has been accepted by the planning commission and it is currently in its 60-day public review process.
Once the public has had a chance to comment, the planning commission will hold a public hearing on Nov. 5. Then the planning commission will vote on whether to approve the plan.
If the planning commission approves it, the 2014 master plan will be sent to the board of commissioners for adoption. The board can choose to reject or adopt the plan. If rejected, the planning commission will have to start the process all over again.
Reach staff writer Christian Alexandersen at 410-857-7873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.