Commissioners receive final draft of comp plan
By Bob Lassahn
The final draft of the new Comprehensive Plan for Worcester County was presented to the commissioners for their review at the September 20 meeting. Carolyn Cummins, chairperson of the planning commission noted that the 92-page document represents several years of work by her group and county staff.
In delivering the draft document Ms. Cummins reviewed many of the considerations the planning commission used in compiling the contents including research regarding other jurisdictions’ planning for best practice information, public comments from several hearings, meetings with town and community officials, staff input, consultation with various experts and state agency reviews. She summarized the fact that the plan recognizes the county’s status as a “smart growth” coastal community and continues the thread of dominance by agriculture and forest cover with concentrated development areas.
The product laid before the commissioners is not the final word on the plan that will direct future growth in the county, estimated to necessitate some 18,000 new dwellings over the next two decades. The commissioners will first digest what is before them and then meet with the planning commission and staff for a work session on October 3 to address any issues uncovered. Following the work session two public hearings will be held, one on November 29 in the northern county and another on December 1 in the south county area. Both will occur in the evening hours to facilitate maximum opportunity for residents at attend at locations to be announced later.
The commissioners commented that they hope to be able to work through the new comprehensive plan quickly so that a finished product might be ready by December. Once the plan is in place the commissioners will be challenged with the questions of comprehensive rezoning to coincide with any changes the new document might propose.
The existing comprehensive plan for the county was adopted in April of 1989 and amended in 1997. Since that time many factors have changed substantially, possibly the most significant issue being the influence of critical areas on development. A substantial growth spurt during the 1990s that was managed under the auspices of the existing comprehensive plan draws mixed reviews and the new plan is likely to come under criticism from some segments of the community.
Ms. Cummins and the commissioners stressed that community input is a vital component in the adoption of a new comprehensive plan. Growth in the county is virtually inevitable. How this growth is managed will hinge in great measure on the new comprehensive plan that is adopted.
The draft comprehensive plan is available in its entirety on the Worcester County website (www.co.worcester.md.us) by clicking on the link for Comprehensive Planning. It can be downloaded in “PDF” format (Adobe Acrobat Reader required) for later reading or print. Copies should also be available for review at Worcester County libraries and at the county offices in Snow Hill.
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