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Should Anne Arundel consider the impact of slavery and racism on land-use planning? Proposed GDP amendment says yes.

The General Development Plan, a blueprint for Anne Arundel County that tries to map out growth and preservation for the next 20 years, would focus on the historic impact of slavery and racism on land use under an amendment up for consideration Monday.

The proposed change to the draft equity statement is one of dozens of amendments up for a vote Monday as the council nears final approval of the plan, often called Plan2040.

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To be introduced by Councilwoman Lisa Brannigan Rodvien, the language for the change is pulled from a resolution worked on by Thornell Jones of Arnold, who said the current statement does not consider how centuries of inequality drove growth for white communities while leaving Black residents behind.

“The history of our county is not without problems that continue to haunt us,” Jones wrote in an email to the council. “Getting past that history will require the present and future government to be mindful of the past and take action to overcome past malpractice.”

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Jones drafted the new statement with support from the NAACP and the Caucus of African-American Leaders.

Monday’s meeting is the last before a final vote on the General Development Plan, which must be approved by early May.

The plan, often called Plan2040, is a guiding document that updates the county’s Land Use Map Plan and serves as the foundational tool for future comprehensive rezoning plans. While it is an important document, County Executive Steuart Pittman’s administration has said future work on regional plans by smaller groups of volunteers and professional planners will provide a more focused look at nine different areas of the county.

Still, the council is working to make its mark on county land use now, with council members passing more than three dozen amendments earlier this month. Those amendments included changes to smaller specific parcels, such as a modification that will let a homeowner build houses for his children on his plot of land. Some of those changes will require future legislation.

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The full array of amendments will be available Monday afternoon on aacounty.org.

Rodvien, D-Annapolis, said the proposed change to the equity statement adds important context and is makes the plan more accountable to historical decisions that brought the county to the place it is now: unequal water access and communities that remain segregated long after the end of legal segregation.

The county once beaches that excluded Black and Jewish people, and many of those areas have been developed as largely white communities. The amendment won’t change any policy within the GDP, but it will be a part of the regional planning process.

“I really think this is an important submission for the GDP,” Rodvien said. “(That history) is an important reason why we need to widen our access as broadly as possible.”

Monday’s meeting is expected to go late as another several dozen amendments are expected. The council reviewed some of those amendments at a Thursday work session, but that meeting was merely prep debate for the votes on Monday. Amendments were to be finalized Thursday.

Councilwoman Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater, told residents to pay close attention to changes in their neighborhoods.

Haire said she had been frustrated with the administration’s “consistency” updates; these are land-use changes guided by a variety of decisions. One such reason is bringing the recorded land-use into line with what is on the site now. Some of those changes have been errors corrected with previous amendments.

There has not been enough information about those changes, Haire said, so she is putting forth an amendment that would require listing all of those changes by parcel. She hopes it will catch other errors and changes she thinks is inappropriate.

“It is really important for the public to get a chance to look at it and say ‘Wait a second, that’s my backyard,’” Haire said.

Council chair Sarah Lacey, D-Jessup, said reviewing the plan and discussing the amendments has been a Herculean task. The administration has had years to work on this document while the council has to review and modify the plan over about 90 days.

Lacey said she has appreciated the back and forth between the council and administration, but admitted some of it wasn’t as productive as she hoped because Pittman and his staff are advocating for parcel and other smaller item changes to be done during the regional planning process.

Because of that focus, the GDP is really the beginning of this process, so residents shouldn’t feel defeated or lose engagement if they don’t get the changes they want at this time, she said.

“In the end, on balance, I’m hopeful we will have created a good and useful plan,” Lacey said. “There is a lot more to continue paying attention to. Residents need to stay engaged.”


Public comment on the General Development Plan is still open, with live and written commentary registration cutting off at 11 a.m. Monday. Anyone wishing to review the preliminary agenda or submit testimony online can do so at aacounty.org.

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