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Gov. Larry Hogan has until June 2 to decide whether to sign or veto a measure that would allow some local legislatures – including the Carroll County Commissioners – the ability to modify future master plans.

The legislation, which passed both the House and Senate by fairly wide margins this past session, would amend the state code to allow elected bodies in non-charter government jurisdictions, such as Carroll, to make those changes, where now they can only approve or reject them. Here in Carroll, changes are made to master plans by the planning commission. While the legislators statewide liked the idea in large numbers, there has been much consternation from both members of the planning commission and county commissioners, who believe this potential change has a great potential to politicize the process.

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The logic behind the opposition boils down to a concern that future county commissioners might be tempted to make significant changes, ostensibly undoing the work of the planners. Keep in mind that the commissioners wouldn't have to make changes, but it's easy to see how they might feel increased pressure to do so if they had the ability to wield that power. On the flip side, though, supporters of this bill, including six of Carroll's seven delegates, say the legislation would help expedite process. Moreover, they believe the ultimate power belongs with elected officials, in this case the commissioners, who are accountable to voters.

"Right now, the process is convoluted and there is no clear delineation of who is responsible," Del. Susan Krebs told us Friday.

While we find both arguments compelling, we agree with Krebs and others who believe the accountability argument carries more weight. The commissioners already have to approve or reject a master plan, so they currently have control over it. And under this new bill, they would still have those same options. If they don't want to make modifications, they don't have to.

Now, if they dislike a portion of a master plan, they send it back to the planning commission with instructions to make a change. And if they don't get the change they want, the plan doesn't get approved. It's very possible that the public won't notice a difference. But that will be up to how heavy-handed a future set of commissioners wants to be.

Assuming the bill is signed into law, we hope the commissioners in Carroll and other jurisdictions will continue to respect the work of the planning commissions and the public during the early stages of the process and don't abuse their new power. After all, that seems to be what most of this concern is about anyway.

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