New Plan May be Recommended Without Citizen Comments

The 2nd Draft of the Comprehensive Plan will be presented to the Planning Commission on May 30th. This will be the first time that the Planning Commission will have seen a draft of the complete Plan with new sections and all of the implementation strategies. To properly evaluate the Plan, we expected that the Commission would take a number of meetings to review it and make changes. When previous rewrites of the Plan were undertaken, the Planning Commission took three to six months (meeting numerous times) to complete this process before they were ready to recommend a draft for public consideration.

This time, however, staff is giving them only 3 choices: A) Designate the 2nd Draft as the Planning Commission’s “Recommended Plan” and proceed with distribution to the public, agencies, and scheduling a public hearing. B) Make revisions at the meeting, designate the revised draft as the “Recommended Plan” and proceed with Step #3. C) Direct staff to make revisions and bring the revised plan back to the Planning Commission for review.

Notice that none of the recommendations involve getting citizen comments before the Planning Commission takes action on the first complete draft of the plan. Do comments from citizens count for anything? How can a brand new draft be the “Recommended Plan” that’s going to public hearing before the public has had a chance to read it and comment on it?

Before determining whether this new Draft should be designated as the one that will go to public hearing, the next step should be to refer the draft to the public and to county and state agencies for review and comment. Toward the end of that comment process (approximately 60 -90 days), the Planning Commission should hold a public forum to hear citizens provide comments and suggestions on the draft plan. Then all the comments and recommendations should be submitted to the Planning Commission so that they can make changes as they see fit. Then they would have a draft to take to a public hearing.

The Comprehensive Plan is the county’s policy document. All other plans and regulations are based on it, according to Maryland law, and all budget decisions are to be made to implement the Plan. This document is too important to rush and citizen involvement is key. If the Plan is not of the people and by the people, then who is it for?

Greg Bowen

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