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Editorial: Feedback critical on Freedom land-use plan

Land-use plans presented by the county have been quite controversial over the years, and updates to the Freedom Community Comprehensive Plan has proven to be no different. That's why we applaud the actions county planning staff are taking to make sure residents are getting ample opportunity to comment and ask questions about the growth strategy for the region.

The Freedom plan, an update to the 2001 document, intends to lay out a strategy for growth in the Freedom area, which encompasses about 44 square miles in southeastern Carroll County from Morgan Run to the north and Md. 97 in the west to the Howard and Baltimore county lines.

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While land-use changes, which this plan lays out, are not to be confused with rezoning, they are the first step in the rezoning process, and those designations are important in that they can maintain or, in some cases, drastically change the fabric of a community.

The Freedom area is the most populated region in Carroll County and a potential commercial hub. For those reasons, the Board of County Commissioners decided earlier this summer to slow down the timeline for approving the comprehensive plan from the end of this year to spring 2017 in order to, "get it right," even though the update has been in the making since 2011.

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Part of getting it right is soliciting and listening to feedback from the people who live there. So far, residents have been quite vocal at outreach meetings in April and July.

Later this month, residents will have a unique opportunity to speak one-on-one with county planning staff about the Freedom Plan updates at the next outreach meeting at 10 a.m. Sept. 24 at Oklahoma Road Middle School in Eldersburg. Unlike past meetings, there will be no formal presentations by staff, but there will be a map of proposed land-use changes on display for residents to look over.

The meeting will also be held on a Saturday morning, after concerns that residents who work were unable to attend previous weeknight sessions to learn more and ask questions.

A list of all land-use changes being considered in the plan and an interactive map have been added to Freedom Plan website, freedomareaplan.org, to help the public get a better understanding of what is being proposed. Comments may also be submitted online.

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We urge residents in the Freedom community to examine the proposed maps and changes, then provide detailed feedback and ask for more information if you still have questions. We also encourage planning staff to have more opportunities like the one coming up Sept. 24 as the updated Freedom Plan continues to evolve.

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