City updating long-term plan for its growth


Westminster planners are updating and revising the city's vision for growth and development for the next six years.

First adopted in June 1998 and updated every six years, Westminster's comprehensive plan details the city's goals for land use, transportation, housing, economic development, neighborhood revitalization and tourism.

"It's a comprehensive look at where the city intends to grow in the next six years," town planner Shawn Siders said. "A lot of it is basically updating figures, texts and adding new policy initiatives that have occurred within the last six years."

In November, city officials met in a daylong workshop to outline strategies and discuss the future of the city's development. Since then, city planners have been working to incorporate those growth strategies into the updated comprehensive plan.

A draft of the several hundred-page plan is expected by early next month, followed by a 60-day public review period, Siders said. After review by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, the Common Council is expected adopt the new comprehensive plan by June 28, Siders said.

One of the biggest changes to the comprehensive plan will involve transportation, Siders said. The current plan includes an outdated proposal for a Westminster Route 140 bypass, which was deleted from state plans in 1999.

With the bypass no longer a viable option, the city must seek other ways to meet the city's growing transportation needs, Siders said. The city is expected to meet soon with the Carroll commissioners and other elected officials to discuss options.

Another item that will be added to the plan is a series of recommendations from the Route 27 study, which examined ways to make the corridor a gateway into the city. The strategy is to turn the highway, also known as Railroad Avenue, into a mixture of new homes, stores, restaurants and offices, Siders said.

The comprehensive plan also will incorporate goals for tourism and economic development in the city, said Stanley T. Ruchlewicz, administrator of the city's Economic Development Office. When the comprehensive plan was conceived in 1998, the city did not have an economic development office.

Tourism-related strategies will include promoting and advertising the historic aspects of Westminster, enhancing signage throughout the city and examining accommodations in the downtown area, Ruchlewicz said.

"It's making people realize that tourism isn't a bad thing," he said.

The key to encouraging economic development is to attract and retain businesses in the city, Ruchlewicz said.

The updated comprehensive plan will incorporate plans to recruit new businesses and encourage the "strategic mix of housing and businesses in downtown," he said.

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