Draft comp plan un­veiled

Pub­lic pre­view slated for Novem­ber

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TAMARA WARD tward@somd­news.com

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.

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