“Every plan has a vision for the future — where you want to be in 20 years,” Deborah Carpenter, director of the Department of Planning and Land Management, said about incorporating thoughts and concerns into the new document. “What are the challenges that are keeping us from getting there? What are some of the potential solutions? What are the guiding principles that we want to have to keep us on track?”
Held Monday afternoon at Garrett College, the three-hour open house focused on matters relating to economic development, transportation and infrastructure.
Stations were available for participants to provide their ideas on each of those issues. Maps were at the ready, if needed, to help pinpoint location-related issues.
Garrett County government recently contracted AECOM of Morgantown, West Virginia, to assist with the plan update.
Downstream Strategies and Terri Reed Cutright & Associates are also providing expertise.
Cutright facilitated the economic development station. She asked participants to provide their opinions on what the county should achieve, preserve and avoid.
Proposed achievements pertained to tourism, small businesses and agriculture. Preservation concerns included “community-based schools,” small businesses and “education on lake use.” Topping the things-to-avoid list were “large industry” and “fracking.”
Chet Parsons, AECOM project manager, collected suggestions on local transportation. Numerous ideas were provided, including “improve Rt. 495,” “do not forward Oakland bypass,” “build Oakland bypass to help business growth,” fulfill bicycle/pedestrian mandates and include “on-demand” in Garrett Transit’s services.
Natural resources business specialist Cheryl DeBerry, Garrett County Department of Economic Development, and AECOM intern Amy Loomis headed the infrastructure station.
Suggestions listed on their large note board included “regulations for cell towers countywide,” “political ownership over broadband to extend sufficient services — government-private partnership” and “plan for water services — longterm goals and sustainability – Let’s not repeat Hoyes Run.”
Carpenter said her goal for completing the new comprehensive plan is early next year.
“I really would have liked it to be January, but that’s not going to work with all the processes we need to go through,” she said.
Her department’s first public workshop focused on “strategic visioning.” Participants were asked to provide their thoughts on community assets, local issues and opportunities.
The second workshop pertained to the “sustainable environment” — water, energy, sensitive areas and land use.
The fourth workshop, scheduled 3–6 p.m. Sept. 10, will focus on a “thriving population.”
“We want them to be happy, healthy and safe,” Carpenter said about “thriving.”
The workshop examine such issues as housing, health care, education, libraries, public facilities and services, Carpenter explained.
“We’re hoping to have a draft by November,” she said about the new comp plan.
Once the draft is completed, the Garrett County Planning Commission will make it available to the public, and a hearing will be held. The document will then be sent to the appropriate state agencies for review. The Planning Commission will examine all the information and, possibly, write another draft.
That will be forwarded on to the county commissioners, who are required to hold a public hearing on the plan before formally adopting it.
“It’s a lot of work,” Carpenter said about the steps involved.
She encouraged the public participate in the process by viewing the current plan (done in 2008) online at garrettcounty.org and submitting their comments.
Carpenter also encouraged citizens to attend Planning Commission meetings, which are held the first Wednesday of every month at 1:30 p.m. in Room 207 of the courthouse. The Planning Commission reviews a chapter of the 2008 plan during each meeting to determine which areas need to be deleted or edited.
“It’ll be streamlined into a little more readable document,” Planning Commission Chairman Tony Doerr said about drafting the new plan.
He indicated the current plan has much redundancy.