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Comp Plan Meeting Summaries

December 7, 2016
The Planning Commission began their review of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan by reviewing Chapter One and a draft document regarding a growth scenario analysis provided by the Director of the Planning & Land Management Department.  Both the notes regarding Chapter One and the draft growth scenario document are provided at the links below.  Edits to Chapter One were mainly updating date and document references. Discussion of the growth scenario document led to discussion about other measurements that may aid in estimating the status of Garrett County in 2040.  Those factors included determining owner occupied units vs non-owner occupied, investigating median household income trends, town vs county growth trends, non-resident employment, and broadening the analysis to include pre-boom years figures.  Staff will investigate some of these factors and bring them to aid discussion at the January 4 meeting.  Chapter Two will be the focus for that meeting.  The growth scenario methodology and projections will feed into that Chapter, which presents historic and current figures for population and new housing starts and will estimate the projections for those factors into 2040.
January 4, 2017
The Planning Commission began review of Chapter Two by covering minor edits that would be needed to Sections 2.1 through 2.4.1.  It was also decided to add the Planning Timeline (provided below) after Section 2.4.1.  Then the Planning Director presented a presentation that addressed questions asked at the last meeting.  Also in the presentation were suggested updates to the Tables found in Section 2.5 in the Comprehensive Plan.  The presentation is also provided below.
Discussion ensued about what a reasonable growth scenario would be.  Three were presented - a moderate growth scenario estimating 100 new housing starts per year, a rapid growth scenario estimating 200 new housing starts per year and a mixed growth scenario that predicts a transition from 100 in the first 10 years, 150 in the next 10 and then 200 in the final five years.  The Planning Commission decided to use the moderate growth scenario.
Additionally the Planning Commission decided to revise the previous estimates of division of new housing starts within the county from previous estimates of 60% in the Deep Creek area, 10% in the towns and 30% in the remainder of the county, to 40% in Deep Creek, 10% in towns and 50% in the remainder.  This decision was based on 10 years of permits data.  The new figures more closely resemble actual tendencies.
Section 2.5.1 and Section 2.6 will be discussed at the next Planning Commission meeting.  Review will also begin on Chapter 3.  The next meeting is February 1.
February 1, 2017
The Planning Commission began by review of follow up questions from the January meeting.  Those questions revolved around determining whether the non-owner occupied housing unit numbers were a reflection of rental housing or seasonal housing, as well as questions of getting a true picture of local resident growth versus second home owner growth.  The powerpoint that includes that information is provided below.  After discussion it was decided that the moderate growth projection of 100 new housing starts per year is aggressive.  That number will be changed to 75 new housing starts per year.  The percentage divisions of those new housing units will remain the same as decided upon last meeting.
Discussion around Section 2.5 - Projections by Watershed centered around approval of the methodology used to derive the figures in Table 2.3.  The methodology involved creating an existing residential housing unit database for the county, extracting new units built between 2000 and 2016, then clipping by the database by relevant geographic regions.  In so doing, the percentage of growth by region can be determined and the projected growth can then be distributed accordingly.  The methodology was approved.
The Economic Development department provided information to update Section 2.6.  That information is also provided below.  
Chapter 3 discussion began with an overview of the chapter and the concerns and recommended actions from the 2008 Comprehensive Plan.  The Planning Commission is to review the goals and recommendations from the current plan to determine whether they still have those concerns or have new concerns.  Staff was asked to be prepared to submit recommended changes to this chapter at the next meeting.
March 1, 2017
Bill Atkinson, staff at the regional MD Dept of Planning office was in attendance.  He stated that one person from the office will try to be in attendance at every Planning Commission meeting to aid with the deliberations and answer questions.  
The Planning Commission was reminded that review of Chapters 3 - 12 are going to be less detailed and more conceptual.  The detailed examination should be conducted with the consultant in conjunction with public workshops. The group should focus on major topics that need to be revisited, added to or deleted from each chapter. The questions circulated at the last meeting were designed to get the Commission considering what changes have happened in the economic environment from the time the last Plan was written to now. A brief discussion about those questions was conducted.
The Director gave a brief overview of the outline of Chapter 3 and recommended that Section 3.2 and 3.3 be tabled for the consultant.  Both sections outline existing conditions and are simply a matter of compiling numbers and statistics.
The group reviewed the Goals and Objectives in Section 3.1.  After much discussion it was suggested that Goals 1, 2 & 3 remain the same.  Goal 4 should change the phrase 'provide land' to 'encourage growth'.  Goal 5 needs tweaked to reflect the need to not just grow, but grow wisely.  Goals 6 & 7 should remain unchanged. Goals 8 & 9 should be deleted, and Goal 10 should reflect a desire to maintain the character of the area while being in harmony with the community.
Discussion then turned to the Land Use Map in the Plan.  It was decided that it would need to be changed and that would be a major task for the consultant.
Finally, discussion centered on land use descriptions found in Section 3.4, specifically rural resource and agricultural resource categories.  During the last Comprehensive Plan cycle, the Planning Commission greatly increased the areas in both these categories.  These are areas designated for preservation, with a 3 acre minimum lot size, and not planned for sewer or water extension.  The septic bill required that all areas that fall into both these categories and most of the rural areas be categorized as Tier 4. Ultimately 84% of the county fell into Tier 4.  According to the law, no major subdivisions are allowed in Tier 4.  Discussion ensued over whether the state law effectively limits development in these areas and therefore a minimum lot size of 3 acres now is not only unnecessary but ultimately detrimental.  Mandating that the 7 lots taken off the parent tract be at least 3 acres takes more land from the parent tract and therefore uses more open space.  It was decided that a 1 acre minimum lot size be considered at the time the contractor conducts work on this chapter, for not only rural resource and agricultural resource categories, but also lake residential 2 categories which currently have a 2 acre minimum requirement.
April 5, 2017
The Planning Commission started discussions by reviewing the summary list of Chapter 3 topics to forward to the consultant.  All agreed with the contents thus far.  The remainder of the meeting was spent finishing up review of Chapter 3.
The Director explained the breakdown within Chapter 3 by watershed and the Commission asked if she could explore ways that might streamline that section, by perhaps grouping similar watersheds together.  The Director agreed to take the suggestion under consideration.
The group next considered the Policies and Actions section at the end of the chapter.  This section exists at the end of every chapter and summarizes recommendations made throughout the chapter.  In addition, Chapter 12 is a compilation of all the Policy and Action sections throughout the Plan.  The Commission believes that rather than have that repetition, each chapter should reference recommendations in Chapter 12.
Finally, the group discussed the merits of adding countywide zoning as a topic for the consultant to broach. The Commission agreed that the topic was likely to come up from the public, and it was best to address it at the outset, allow for public comment and then let the consultant offer research and recommendations as to whether there is a need for the expansion of zoning in the County.
May 3, 2017
The group began by reviewing the Consultant Topic List for Chapter Three, which was modified based on discussions from the last meeting.  Then a review of Chapter Four, Deep Creek Lake Influence Area began.  Discussions started with a review of the geography used to form the boundary of the influence are in the last plan, the reasoning behind it and a question as to whether that boundary should continue to be applied.  It was decided that it should remain the same.  It was decided that the Vision Statement should remain unchanged. Section 4.3’s statistical information will need updated accordingly.  Section 4.4 impacts on growth will also see some changes based on current growth rates. Section 4.5 is likely to see mapping updates and the Planning Commission made no formal recommendations for Section 4.6 at this time.
June 7, 2017
The Planning Commission reviewed a powerpoint presentation to refocus their attention on the purpose and content of the Comprehensive Plan process.  Though the deadline is still 2023, funds have been awarded in the budget to begin the RFP for a consultant, to aid in the revamping of the Plan.  The Commission discussed long-term, big picture items including; the digital revolution, Moore’s Law, rising inequality, broadband, energy, predicting growth scenarios and other issues. Director Carpenter will format and prepare the draft RFP document that will be presented at the July Planning Commission meeting. This draft will include a public engagement strategy, which affects the fees of the consultant. The group also discussed preserving the assets that the County has now, encouraging its young people to stay, improving population growth, promoting local businesses and regulatory impediments. Also discussed was the aging county population and lack of vocational opportunities.
July 12, 2017
The Planning Commission reviewed a first draft of the Request for Proposals (RFP) to be used to solicit a consultant to assist with the update of the Comprehensive Plan.  The Scope of Work called for a 
restructuring around a few guiding principles; a sustainable environment, vibrant economy and thriving population.  All the chapters in the previous document have been grouped as subsections of these principles. The Director believes that this will improve the readability, while still meeting the requirements as outlined in state law.
All pertinent statistics and growth projections are to be captured in the Introduction.  The idea is to avoid repetition by encapsulating all relevant data there without repeating them in the subsections.
The draft includes a public engagement section, outlining six meetings, three each by guiding principle, such as environment, economy, and population. Meetings are proposed possibly in the northern and southern end of the County.  After much discussion it was decided to hold three public meetings to gather input held in the center of the county, possibly at Garrett College, and include a robust digital public engagement strategy for public input as well.  After the three public meetings, a final draft will be created and another public meeting will be held to review it.  After the Plan is presented to the Commissioners, the Commissioners will hold an additional public hearing prior to adoption of the Plan.
The Director will re-write the draft and present it at the August meeting which has been moved to the second Wednesday in August in order to avoid conflict with the Garrett County Fair.