Carroll commissioners study plan for southern growth


The county commissioners took a first look yesterday, but no action, on a plan that will guide growth in Carroll's most populated area.

The board will schedule several work sessions before reaching a decision on the Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan, which has the approval of the county Planning Commission.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said the review process should not take long.

"There is so much history here," she said.

The document covers all aspects of growth in a 47-square-mile area that includes South Carroll. It deals with roads, infrastructure and utilities, and is the result of three years of work by county staff and volunteers.

The Freedom plan has changed little in the 22 years since the county made South Carroll a priority and created the blueprint for growth. But, in that same period, the population has nearly tripled to about 28,000, with many of the concepts unbuilt.

"For the most part, the 1977 plan remains intact," said Steven C. Horn, county director of planning.

The new plan proposes completion of about 19 service and connector roads, all of them from the original plan. The roads would relieve traffic on state Routes 26 and 32, the area's main corridors.

"We still are trying to get the state involved with improvements to Route 26," Horn said. "We are working on costs and additional rights of way. Anything we can do in terms of roads parallel to Route 26 would help local traffic."

Among connector roads to be improved are Georgetown Boulevard, Monroe Avenue and Macbeth Way, which would give traffic south of Route 26 an alternative to reach Route 32. The plan also calls for completion of Obrecht Road from Route 97 to Route 32.

Planners envision two new zoning classifications for South Carroll. A boulevard district would include the businesses along Routes 26 and 32.

"We are gearing toward larger retailers with a regional draw," Horn said. "We have to think about long-term strategy in terms of traffic, access controls and pedestrian walkways. There have to be designs to support the transportation system."

The second new zoning would be for an employment campus that would have professional office complexes around Springfield Hospital Center. The plan also calls for increasing industrial acreage at Central Maryland Distribution Center, a business center near Routes 26 and 97.

A public hearing on the plan in January drew about 500 residents, many of them critical of proposed zoning that would change agricultural land to residential. In response to those concerns, the Planning Commission tabled the rezonings.

If the county commissioners make major changes to the plan, they will schedule additional hearings.

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