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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.
August 9, 2017
The Director presented the edited version of the Draft RFP, containing the edits suggested by the Commission at the previous meeting.  The edits were in two sections - Economic Development and Public Engagement.  
In the Economic Development section the document was revised to ensure that all economic development plans and any other applicable plans are used for reference in the document.  Also, a special focus was made to emphasize attracting new small business and to support the expansion of existing small business.
The public engagement strategy was modified to call for three information gathering sessions open to the public and held in a central location in the county.  Each session would focus on one of the three major topic areas: environment, economy and population.  After the first draft is complete another public information gathering session will be held in order to garner input on the draft.  In addition this section was revised to reflect the need for an effective online presence and digital engagement, that may consist of web pages, social media and webinars.
The RFP will be reviewed by the Purchasing Department and the Commissioners prior to being released.
September 6, 2017
The Director noted that the Comprehensive Plan RFP had been reviewed by the Purchasing Department and is now awaiting approval from the Commissioners.  In the meantime, she recommended that the Commission continue work on Chapter Topic Lists.  The purpose of the topic list is to prepare the contractor for major topics likely to be discussed, that need to be addressed in the plan.  The goal will not be to come up with a solution, but to identify the issues and red flag them for public discourse or contractor action.
The group had begun review of Chapter Four prior to the work on the RFP.  To date the topic list had three items and can be accessed below. The members agreed that these items adequately summarized their discussions to date, prior to beginning discussions on the remainder of the Chapter.  After much discussion, items to be added to the list include an emphasis on pedestrian safety on roads such as Glendale Rd, Deep Creek Dr and Mosser Rd, ensuring the needs of the McHenry area with regard to water are adequately met, and an emphasis on trail connectivity.
The Director will add those items to the Chapter Four Topic List and present them for approval at the next meeting.  Also, at the next meeting the Commission will begin review of Chapter Five.
October 4, 2017
The Planning Commission began with an update from the Director on the RFP process.  The RFP is on the street with proposals due by October 24.  After proposals are complete a Selection Committee will review them, check references and may conduct interviews.  The Director suggested that a member of the Planning Commission represent the group on that Committee.  Liz Georg will be the Planning Commission representative on the Comprehensive Plan RFP Selection Committee.  The Director also emphasized that all questions from bidders about the Comprehensive Plan must be directed to the Purchasing Department while the RFP is on the street.  The Purchasing Department ensures that all questions and subsequent answers are available to all potential applicants.
The Planning Commission reviewed the Chapter 4 Consultant Topic List to ensure it accurately reflected the changes and additions the group discussed at the last meeting.  The Planning Commission agreed on the content of that list.
Next the Planning Commission reviewed Chapter 5 Water Resources Element.  Aside from noting the usual places for statistical updates, it was noted that most of this information is in the current Water & Sewer Master Plan and we will need to ensure the chapter aligns with that document.  In addition, topics that may come up include access to enough drinking water for development on Wisp Mountain, an update to potential new surface water supplies, and sewer spill prevention.
November 1, 2017
The Planning Commission reviewed the Chapter 5 Consultant Topic List to ensure it accurately reflected the thoughts of the group discussed at the last meeting.  The Planning Commission agreed on the content of the list.
The Director reviewed the outline of Chapter 6 - Transportation.  She noted sections that would need basic updates in relevant statistics and trends based on more current population projections.  The group then focused on issues and concerns of note.  These concerns included bike and pedestrian safety in a number of locations in the Deep Creek watershed, intersection safety at the intersections of US 219 and Glendale Rd, Mosser Rd, and Rock Lodge Rd, a concern about the longterm viability of the transit system and the need for its broader use, and an exploration of a return of passenger rail service to the Oakland area.
December 6, 2017
The Planning Commission reviewed the Chapter 6 Consultant Topic List to ensure it accurately reflected the thoughts of the group discussed at the last meeting.  The Planning Commission agreed on the content of the list.
The Commission reviewed Chapter 7 Sensitive Areas.  The items that are considered “Sensitive Areas” include steep slopes, streams, wetlands and their buffers, 100-year floodplains, the habitat of rare, threatened or endangered species, agricultural and forest land intended for conservation and other areas in need of special protection. This chapter includes a discussion of ridgelines, as a sensitive area, which may need protection. After considerable discussion, the Commission believes that ridgelines continue to be an area in need of protection that should be included in the update of the Plan and discussed further with the consultant.
Broad impacts such as the fragmentation of resource land and localized impacts such as sedimentation resulting from construction activity and stormwater were discussed. The impacts of the State Septic Bill and Tier Map on growth were also considered. Updates to existing plans and ordinances that have occurred since 2008 will have to be addressed. Agricultural and forest land intended for protection by MALPF and Rural Legacy easements were considered. Assisting the farmer, together with the preservation of the land is also a suggested topic. The benefits and liability of solar power were also discussed, together with the use of land that has been surface mined.
January 3, 2018
The Planning Commission reviewed the Chapter 7 Consultant Topic List to ensure it accurately reflected the thoughts of the group discussed at the last meeting.  The Planning Commission agreed on the content of the list.
The Commission reviewed Chapter 8 Community Facilities.  This chapter has information that is largely garnered by agencies outside of the County auspices.  These agencies create their own plans and collaborate with us to ensure their sections within the Comprehensive Plan are consistent.  It was noted that the Health Care section could use enhancements to include issues of community health as identified in the Health Department's Community Health Assessment.  The following topic areas were also identified as issues that need to be discussed in the plan.
  • the challenge of providing services to an aging population
  • the demographic shift that is increasing our aging population and decreasing our school age children population
  • the opioid crisis
  • the declining number of volunteers at Volunteer Fire and EMS stations
  • the increase in mandatory certifications required for volunteers in the public safety field
  • the negative impacts of declining student enrollment and its impacts on the educational system and the community at large