Draft comp plan unveiled
Public preview slated for November
The Calvert County Planning Commission reviewed the first working draft of the 2040 Calvert County Comprehensive Plan and approved it for public review in November.
The 140-page document details the draft goals and vision for the future of the county and lays out the actions needed to make them a reality. More than 30 citizens attended the Oct. 25 work session intended only to unveil the blueprint to the planning board.
“We’re seeking your direction to move forward to take the draft out to the public for initial comment,” said county longrange planner Jenny Plummer-Welker, to the planning commission.
Welker said public comments on the first
draft will be brought back to the commission in December and they will revise the plan at the board’s direction. The draft will also be sent out to county agencies for comments.
Planning consultant Jackie Seneschal of Parsons Brinckerhoff, the firm facilitating the plan update and zoning ordinance rewrite, walked commission members through all 10 chapters of the plan, while planning and zoning staff chimed in for technical clarity.
Preserving the rural landscape and creating vibrant town centers and villages are identified as being equally paramount to Calvert County in the draft plan.
Working toward achieving those twin goals, the comprehensive plan will serve as a blueprint to maintain and improve the overall quality of life for all citizens by promoting sustainable development; encouraging a stable and enduring economic base; providing for safety, health and education; and preserving the natural, cultural and historic assets of Calvert County.
A series of 10 visions serve to express the goals that address the attractiveness and convenience of town centers, the safety and accessibility of county highways and the offering of robust and diverse educational opportunities.
The board lodged no objection to the nine land use categories within the Future Land Use Plan that will guide future development and be the foundation for revisions to the zoning ordinance.
The land use plan groups town centers, villages and residential areas as growth areas. Industrial and marine commercial are identified as commercial and industrial areas within Calvert. Farm and forest, rural residential, waterfront communities and wetlands are rural areas.
There is an objective set to phase out rural commercial properties or rural commercial districts that are vacant or under-utilized. A similar objective exists in the current comprehensive plan.
“I think about the momn-pop shop that maybe closes and the land maybe now belongs to the kids. We wouldn’t want to get into now saying that’s not going to be … a commercial piece of property,” planning board member Steve Jones said, expressing concern for the landowner.
“We have to be cautious of overreaching,” agreed Planning Commission Chair Carolyn McHugh.
Planning and Zoning director Mark Willis said the county doesn’t want to rush in and take away the rural commercial character in the county.
“If there is a piece of property that sat out there for 30 years and nobody has done anything with it, eventually if you change the zoning someone might do something productive with the property. It does’t have to be commercial to be productive,” explained Willis.
Planning Commission vice chair Greg Kernan asked if the plan addresses infrastructure, specifically as it relates to utilities and substructure, such as electrical, poten- tially being in someone’s backyard.
“The comprehensive plan … is not going to get into where substations are going to be,” said Seneschal, later suggesting that maybe language about that should be added to the plan given the expansion of broadband.
The draft plan also lays out a comprehensive approach to environmental planning and preservation, as well as addresses sustainability issues, environmental protection and resource conservation, as they all intersect with quality of life for citizens.
“We put in the mitigation of natural and manmade disasters,” said Seneschal, of the desire to protect and preserve natural resources. “In Calvert County, the most likely one is flooding.”
A plan objective to create public awareness of environmental concerns through education prompted Kernan to suggest flushing out the language first internally before going out to the public. Planning Chair Carolyn McHugh said the county’s communications department will do the vetting before dissemination.
Kernan later clarified to The Calvert Recorder that he was speaking in regard to the county’s environmental sensitivities in relation to Calvert’s proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River, not climate control.
Most of Calvert County’s current housing is unaffordable for low-income families and young adults, based on feedback from residents, according to the consultant. The draft plan focuses on expanding the range of housing types available in the town centers.
“You’ve got to have people there 24/7. They have to be living there in order to have vibrant town centers,” said Seneschal, adding that the centers are valuable from a land use and economic development perspective.
Seneschal said housing also needs to exist to support the county’s aging population. Housing options with universal designs, such as wider doorways and hallways and entryways with no steps, allow more seniors to live independently. She also suggests co-locating housing for seniors near health and other services they routinely need.
The plan also gives consideration to incorporating some residential housing in traditionally commercial areas, such as one or two apartments over a commercial facility, with the goal of keeping people around. Seneschal said the county should avoid concentration of subsidized housing.
A chapter in the draft focuses on economic vitality and identifies opportunities to strengthen the county economically through encouraging entrepreneurship.
“Allow people to begin businesses in their home. Help them know when it is time to move out of their home and into a commercial space,” explained Seneschal. “Try to grow businesses from the talent you have here.”
The plan also addresses ensuring sufficient drinking water and wastewater treatment capacity to support future development as well as reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and Patuxent River.
Seneschal said the more the county does now, the less of a shock it will be later.
With a focus on community engagement, a plan objective exists to increase the variety of resources of community centers and make more use of schools, particularly for cultural celebrations to help bring diverse groups into the community.
The draft plan will be presented to the public via meetings Nov. 13, 14 and 16. Seneschal said there will be a continuously running introductory presentation that highlights the plan, as well as stations around the meeting room for each of the chapter topics with staff and consultants to answer questions.
The work session’s iteration of the draft comprehensive plan can be found on the county website at www.co.cal.md.us/DocumentCenter/View/17188.