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Director's Blog - April 2015

Last Updated on Apr 13, 2015 at 11:39am | Department of Planning & Land Management
In last month’s blog I provided a general overview of the Comprehensive Plan.  This month’s and subsequent months’ blogs will cover each chapter of the Plan in more detail.  The purpose of these chapters is to establish the County’s goals and objectives concerning the future of various aspects of growth, such as land use, transportation and economic development.  The process to determine the County’s goals in 2008 involved an extensive amount of public outreach, input and participation.  However, much like your personal goals and objectives may change over a 10 year period, so too might the goals and objectives of a community.  In this blog our focus is on Chapter 3: Land Use.  We’ll begin by exploring the land use goals & objectives and implementation strategies established in 2008, then end with a brief discussion about why this chapter is likely to change during the next update.
 
In 2008 the County established the following land use goals and objectives.
  1. Conserve forest resource land.
  2. Conserve agricultural resource land.
  3. Encourage growth in designated growth areas, including the County’s incorporated towns, and especially where development can be served by public water and sewerage systems.
  4. Provide land in appropriate locations for growth and expansion of economic development opportunities.
  5. Continue to encourage growth and development around Deep Creek Lake and its associated resort activities.
  6. Provide land in appropriate locations and densities for a variety of housing types and choices.
  7. Provide land in appropriate locations to allow for the development of affordable housing.
  8. Improve the layout and design of residential subdivisions to conserve resource land and rural character.
  9. Discourage strip commercial development.
  10. Encourage high quality building and site design.
 
To meet these goals, the County revised its Land Classification Map and the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance Map to increase the land area designated as Agricultural Resource and Rural Resource, revised the Priority Funding Area Map to include Future Growth Areas, created an incentive for the use of clustering design within subdivisions to provide for more open space preservation, established site and architectural standards for non-residential developments within the Deep Creek Watershed and created the McHenry Business Park as a new center for economic opportunity.  The County also incorporated the Comprehensive Plan’s goals to conserve agricultural and forest resource land within its 2012 Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plan.
 
New land use goals, objectives and implementation strategies are likely for a couple reasons.  First, existing and projected population and housing data are used to estimate the amount of growth the County can expect over the next 10 years.  The projected growth estimates used in the 2008 document were based on a thriving housing market from the years prior to the publication of the document.  Shortly afterwards the market took a decided downturn.  The growth that was expected over the last 10 years has not occurred and new projections will be based on a much more sedate market.
 
Secondly, the passing of the 2012 Sustainable Growth & Agricultural Preservation Act created statewide land use policies that superseded some of the County’s subdivision policies.  The purpose of the Act was to identify where major residential subdivisions may be located and what type of sewerage system will serve them.  The majority of our county falls into the Tier 4 category which is defined as planned for preservation or dominated by agriculture or forest.  In this category the state has mandated that no major residential subdivisions (defined as more than 7 lots) can be permitted.  Though designating the location of growth and preservation areas and enacting policies and regulation to direct growth and preservation has been traditionally a right granted to local jurisdictions, this Act will now need to be considered and its tenets included in any proposed mapping edits or proposed subdivision policies in the updated Comprehensive Plan.
 
Interested citizens are welcome to explore the details of the land use chapter in the 2008 Comprehensive Plan.  As we anticipate beginning the update to the Comprehensive Plan next year, citizens are encouraged to consider and share their vision for land use in Garrett County.  Many opportunities for public comment will be made available during the update process.  Any immediate questions may be directed to the Garrett County Department of Planning and Land Management by emailing planning@garrettcounty.org. 
 
Next month’s blog will highlight Chapter 4 of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan: Deep Creek Lake Influence Area Master Plan.