Residents say master plan suggestions ignored Planning commission member plans poll to gauge dissatisfaction


Some county residents who spent nearly two years helping draft a new master plan to guide Carroll's growth are complaining that their key recommendations have been ignored.

"I am concerned about what I have been hearing," said Maurice E. Wheatley, an Eldersburg resident who is a member of the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Residents who served in four groups that studied the four areas addressed in the master plan draft are telling Wheatley that "they haven't been heard." The latest version of the master plan -- written by the county planning department -- differs little from the one crafted 30 years ago, they say.

To find out whether the complaints are isolated or symptomatic of a larger problem, Wheatley has asked a representative from each group to poll its members.

Wheatley wants to know whether groups as a whole think the ideas and goals they sought to include in the master plan have been ignored. If so, he wants to know whether they believe it was the planning commission or the county planning department that shelved their recommendations.

"They worked hard for two years" on four main aspects of the draft -- adequate facilities, agricultural preservation, economic development and land use, Wheatley said.

"They want to make sure the plan reflects that work. And they are confused about it when it does not," he said.

Wheatley aired his plans for the poll at a planning commission meeting Tuesday night. He declined to give examples of the complaints, saying they are "samples" of what may or may not be a larger problem and need to be tested.

Sharing examples publicly might color the way group members reply to two questions Wheatley wants answered: Do you feel that important ideas or goals espoused by your work team are not reflected in the final master plan draft? Was it the planning department or the planning commission that did not recognize those goals and ideas?

If several members of a group give answers similar to the complaints he has heard, "we'll know it's more than a sample," Wheatley said.

Planning Commission Chairman Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine said he was "troubled" by the suggestion that the planning panel has ignored the work groups' recommendations.

"The planning commission has taken a lot of steps to improve communication with the public and we continue to learn about public interests," Hiltz said. "My feeling was that we had an open process. Not every work team recommendation was adopted, but I will contend that most, if not all, were given thorough consideration and acted upon in a considered, deliberate manner."

The proposed plan directs growth -- estimated at 200,000 residents during the next 20 years -- to established community planning areas: the eight towns, Finksburg and the Freedom District, which includes South Carroll, the county's most populous region with 28,000 residents.

The commission has held several information meetings about the draft plan since giving it preliminary approval in January. A public hearing last week was attended by nearly 60 people, many of whom opposed the plan to direct growth to the most populous parts of the county.

The commission will review the draft again at a meeting May 26 before sending it to the County Commissioners for approval. The commissioners can accept or reject the plan, but they cannot amend it.

Some people in every work group feel their ideas have been ignored, Wheatley said, but if three-fourths of the members in a group believe a commonly held goal was ignored, the public and the planning commission should know that.

Wheatley plans to share his findings with the planning panel at the May 26 meeting.

Wheatley said he was "honored" that people felt comfortable telling him "about the things they felt most important that didn't make it" into the draft.

Pub Date: 4/30/98

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