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Planning Director's Blog - January 2016

Last Updated on Jan 28, 2016 at 9:59am | Department of Planning & Land Management

After an extended hiatus, the planning blog is back.  The hiatus was caused by a change of focus regarding the Comprehensive Plan, precipitated by the release of Maryland Department of Planning (MDP)’s document “Managing Maryland’s Growth – Transitioning to the Comprehensive Plan 10-Year Review Cycle”.  That document can be viewed at MDP’s website at http://planning.maryland.gov/PDF/OurWork/CompPlans/transitioning-to-comp-plan10-year-cycle2015.pdf. 
 
In 2013, the Maryland General Assembly passed and the Governor signed House Bill 409 that changed the review cycle for comprehensive plans from a 6 year cycle to a 10 year cycle.  The bill also directed MDP to create a schedule for that transition.  That document is the one referenced in the above paragraph.  The draft of that document was released for review in September of 2015 and was officially adopted in November of 2015. 
 
In the absence of that document and anticipating that our Comprehensive Plan, last completed in 2008, would need to be updated by 2018, and considering it is generally a 2 year process, the Garrett County Planning & Land Management Department was preparing to write a Request for Proposals in 2015, anticipating work to begin in 2016.  With the release of the guidance document, that work was delayed.
 
The document suggests, but does not mandate, that jurisdictions whose review cycle would fall between 2017 and 2021 defer their next update until the 2020 census data became available.  The first release of decennial census 2020 data is anticipated around February 2021.  On page 14 of the document, the proposed target date for Garrett County’s Comprehensive Plan is 2021 – 2023.  It is emphasized by MDP that these are proposed dates, but that Planning Commissions may update their plans at any time.
 
On October 7, 2015, the draft document was presented to the Garrett County Planning Commission for their consideration.  The minutes of that meeting can be found at https://www.garrettcounty.org/resources/planning-land-development/pdf/Planning%20Commission/minutes/2015/10-07-2015.pdf.  The Planning Commission was asked at that meeting to review the options and be prepared at the next meeting to make a recommendation to the Commissioners regarding the timing of the Plan.  At the November meeting (minutes found at https://www.garrettcounty.org/resources/planning-land-development/pdf/Planning%20Commission/minutes/2015/11-04-2015.pdf) the Planning Commission expressed their belief that it was not necessary to wait until after the 2020 census for review, since they do not believe that, given the County’s historic lack of population change, it would enhance the document significantly.  However, they did feel that there are a number of issues, including the Marcellus Shale debate, that the Commission is not prepared to address at this time due to factors beyond the County’s control.  It was the consensus of the group that the start of the Comprehensive Plan review process should be delayed by at least one year.  An evaluation of when to start the process will be part of the Planning Commission’s agenda at the November 2016 meeting.
 
The Planning Commission forwarded that recommendation to the Commissioners via letter dated November 10, 2015 and the topic was again presented during the Commissioners Public Meeting dated November 17, 2015.  The minutes of that meeting can be viewed at https://www.garrettcounty.org/resources/commissioners/pdf/minutes/2015/11-17-2015.pdf.  At that meeting the Commissioners accepted the Planning Commission’s recommendation.
 
In light of these developments, the focus of this blog on chapters of the Comprehensive Plan will be discontinued, and instead the focus for the 2016 Planning Director’s Blog will be on current events and planning topics of interest.  If you have a topic you are interested in learning more about, please feel free to send your request to me at dcarpenter@garrettcounty.org.