Comprehensive Plan

Planning board tables comprehensive plan decision
The Calvert County Planning Commission tabled staff-recommended next steps on the second draft of the comprehensive plan update for 2040 on Wednesday.  The planning board instead opted to review individually, at a later date, each section of the draft plan during a special work session, a process consistent with prior comprehensive plan development.
Planning commission vice chairman Steve Jones opposed a motion to review individually each section of the second draft of Calvert County Comprehensive Plan June 20.  Jones said he feel the draft is ready to go forward for review and public comment.   “I, for one, still do not feel I can put a stamp on this draft and say this 196-page draft, and 133 comments that came in before today’s meeting, and assimilate that in one cohesive thing,” commission member Carolyn McHugh said before motioning to dissect the plan segment by segment.  Planning member Robert Reed, who worked on past plans dating back to 2004, concurred with McHugh, noting her assessment was accurate, as did John Toohey. Commission vice chairman Steve Jones and Richard Holler were the only opposing votes on the motion, which passed.
“I feel it’s ready to go forward for review and public comment. I’ve done my due diligence and I’d like to see the framework in place so we can move forward with the comprehensive plan,” Jones said in an interview with The Calvert Recorder. “It’s like kicking the can down the street.”
Holler told the Recorder he is not expecting any results from the adopted approach and “we’ve discussed it. The county is divided and it’s not going anywhere — just more frustration.”
During the meeting, McHugh addressed numerous concerns from citizens that the process is being rushed by the county, especially the recent open houses that were scheduled within a matter of days of the planning board’s May 31 decision to host them.  “Things are being pushed and people are feeling a little bit maneuvered,” McHugh said, recalling an instance when the planning commission was given little notice to meet the consultant whom the
planning board did not hire.   “I can understand the annoyance that the public felt about the little time they were given.”
Toohey later said of the June 11, 12 and 13 open houses that it was an “awful short time to allow people to rearrange their schedules and attend — a very short time do anything in the public sphere.”
McHugh said in past comprehensive plan processes information was “sent out, came back, sent back out, reviewed — and only when all segments had been reviewed was there a final draft.”  “Sometimes in the back my head I hear … ‘keep rolling rolling rolling. Keep those doggies moving.  Move ‘em up. Get ‘em out. Cut ‘em out. Ride ‘em in. Movin’, movin’, movin’ Though they’re disapprovin’, keep them dogies movin’,’” McHugh recited, to which Toohey completed “Raw-hide,” likening the current plan process to the lyrics from the theme song to the 1960s western television show “Rawhide.”
Planning and Zoning Director Mark Willis said graduations and the end of school and vacations factored into the decision on when to schedule the open houses. “Sunday will be three years that this process has been going — is three years rushing it? I don’t know,” Willis said.  Earlier in the evening, Willis addressed “misinformation” on the county’s stance or policies regarding
transportation, growth and agricultural preservation. Much of what he addressed was born out of an upcoming comprehensive plan forum hosted by the advocacy group Keep Calvert County, as well as assertions that he “is pushing this along to help the developers.”  “I have a responsibility to get this document with your guidance for a 60-day review. That’s what I was trying to do,” Willis said. “I try to be efficient, not sneaky — efficient.”  The staff-proposed options for next steps included reviewing comments, making revisions and designating the plan “Draft for Public Hearing” and scheduling a joint public hearing with the Board of County Commissioners with a 60-day advance review period in accordance with state law. No date has been set yet for the first special work session to review section one of the second draft
of the plan, but the decision not to green-light the draft plan was met with great applause by attendees.
“I am delighted,” said former county planner and current member of Keep Calvert Country Miriam Gholl. “The planning commission needs to have a presentation by the consultant explaining the reasons behind every policy in that document and they’ve not had that yet.”  Gholl said without the consultant or staff analysis, the planning board would have had to read the document themselves.
Planning Commission Chairman Greg Kernan, who has the luxury of not voting on an issue as he facilitates the meetings, did share with the Recorder after the meeting that “a lot of work’s been done, but apparently not enough from some people.”  “Hopefully, we can get this dissecting done to the satisfaction of citizens and the planning commission and end up with a document everybody can be happy with and benefit from,” Kernan said.

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