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Public planning meetings scheduled

May 16, 2001

Public planning meetings scheduled



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A draft of the revised Washington County Comprehensive Plan was unveiled Tuesday at a joint meeting of the County Commissioners and the Planning Commission.

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. It also summarizes current information about the county, ranging from the amount of park space to the number of schools to demographic information about the county population.

During most of a two-hour meeting of the Planning Commission and commissioners, county Planning Department employees summarizing the plan with the use of overhead projections.

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Public testimony was not taken. In addition to planning staff and members of the two boards, about 10 people attended.

There are two volumns of the draft, both written by the county planning staff. The main volumn is 318 pages. The executive summary is 116 pages.

Copies of the plan are available today at the county Planning Department office in the County Administration Building at 100 W. Washington St.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook urged county residents to participate in 18 town meetings intended to solicit comments on the plan.

"This is a big deal. We are asking the citizens to come to a bunch of meetings," said Snook, who noted that planning for the future of Washington County is important.

The first town meeting is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. in the commissioners meeting room. Town meetings will be held at various county locations every Tuesday and Thursday through July 17.

Information from the 18 public meetings will be used to make changes to the plan , Planning Director Robert Arch said. Nothing in the document is concrete, he said

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

During those hearings it became clear that residents were concerned about intensified population growth, the plan says. Of 57 responses to the meetings, 90 percent listed growth management and land use issues as a top priority in county planning for the future, according to the plan.

Specifically, residents were concerned about the "western migration" of larger cities, including Washington, D.C., and Baltimore as "the biggest threat to the county," the plan notes.

The county first adopted a comprehensive plan in 1971 and adopted a new plan in 1981. The present draft of the plan is a revision of the 1981 plan.

The is important for more than planning purposes. State and federal funds spent here can be used only on projects consistent with Washington County's comprehensive plan, with the exception of projects involving extraordinary circumstances with no reasonable feasible alternative, the plan says.

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