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County planning for years of growth

May 15, 2001

County planning for years of growth



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Washington County's population is expected to increase to more than 176,000 by 2050, according to a draft of the revised Washington County Comprehensive Plan, which will be discussed in public for the first time today.

The 2000 population of 131,923 will rise to almost 150,000 people by 2020, according to figures in the plan.

The Comprehensive Plan lays the groundwork for the county over the next 20 years, especially in areas of land use, growth management policy, roads, sewers and sensitive environmental areas.

The draft will be discussed at a joint meeting of the Washington County Planning Commission and the County Commissioners at 7 p.m. today at the Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Community College. Public testimony will not be taken at that meeting.

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Copies of the plan will be available Wednesday at the Washington County Planning Department office in the County Administration Building.

The first of 18 town meetings on the plan is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in the commissioners meeting room. Public comments are being solicited for all meetings.

The update of the Comprehensive Plan is essentially a new plan, Planning Director Robert Arch said.

Thirteen public hearings were held about two years ago so residents could provide suggestions and thoughts on the county's development and growth. Comments from those meetings were used in compiling the draft, Arch said.

Information from the upcoming 18 public hearings will be used to make changes, he said.

After those hearings are completed, the Planning Commission will hold work sessions on the plan, after which there will be a public hearing, he said.

Nothing in the document is concrete, he said. Arch said he expects major changes will be made as a result of suggestions by the County Commissioners and the Planning Commission.

The report contains a chapter of demographics and background data, which says:

-- The county population has almost doubled between 1940 and 2000, going from 68,836 to 131,923.

-- The average annual growth rate was less than .8 percent between 1940 and 1990 and less than .9 percent between 1990 and 2000.

-- For the next 20 years, growth will be less than .7 percent.

-- In 1970 the county was 96.1 percent white. That number dropped to 92 percent in 2000 and is projected to drop to 90.7 percent in 2020.

-- Per capita income increased from $11,837 in 1970 to $20,795 last year. That number is projected to increase to $24,199 by 2020.

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