Updating the Howard County General Plan
It’s time to update the Howard County General Plan. As the lead agency in this County-wide effort, the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) will promote public discussion about the broad range of issues we will need to address over the next 20 years to enhance the sustainability of the County’s high quality of life, environment and economy.
Why are we updating the General Plan now?
Howard County undertakes a review and update of the General Plan about once every decade, and last year, DPZ initiated work on this update. Since General Plans typically look 20 years into the future, the ten-year update comes at the mid-point in the planning timeframe, which then becomes the new starting point for the next 20-year General Plan.
What is the process for the General Plan update?
Howard County Charter and Code set out the parameters for updating the General Plan. Together these require that the planning process obtain public input in two phases. The first phase involves the development of “General Plan Guidelines” to direct drafting of the plan. The second phase is the preparation and adoption of the plan itself. A general plan must include, but is not limited to a plan for land use and land conservation, as well as multiyear development plans for transportation, public facilities, water, sewerage, parkland, housing, human services and environmental protection.
How does the State of Maryland influence our local plan?
Article 66B of the Annotated Code of Maryland sets parameters for comprehensive planning by local jurisdictions across the State. Local comprehensive plans must address the State’s adopted “Smart Growth” visions. These twelve visions set broad State goals related to: quality of life and sustainability; public participation; growth areas; community design; infrastructure; transportation; housing; economic development; environmental protection; resource conservation; stewardship; and implementation.
Plans by all jurisdictions are required to include a sensitive areas element, a water resources element, a transportation element, a land development regulations element that addresses implementation, and a mineral resources element. Other, optional elements may be included.
State law requires that after adoption of the local comprehensive plan, subsequent implementing actions such as zoning, development regulations and the Water and Sewer Master Plan be consistent with the local plan.
Finally, the State requires local jurisdictions to report annually on specific defined growth indicators, so the State can monitor progress in achieving Smart Growth goals. Further detail.
What is the framework for the General Plan?
The General Plan will be structured to reflect the overarching concept of “sustainability”. The paradigm of sustainability is comprised of three equally important dynamics – the sustainability of our communities and quality of life, the sustainability of a healthy environment, and the sustainability of a prosperous economy. From the viewpoint of the General Plan, these dynamics need to shape an integrated land use and transportation approach. All of these components will recognize the County’s location in the middle of central Maryland and the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. corridor. This regional context has in the past, and will continue to have significant impacts on our community quality of life, our environment and our economy as we look to the future.
Will the General Plan update address future growth?
The Maryland Department of Planning projects that Central Maryland will grow by approximately 500,000 people over the next 20 years. Our General Plan will need to project Howard County’s share of this growth, considering the County’s record as a strong attractor of jobs. To minimize high levels of commuter traffic from outside of the County entering the County every day, the County needs to accommodate new housing growth to balance job growth. The concept of jobs : housing balance will help to determine how much the County should expect to grow. Based on the job and housing projections, the General Plan will need to identify where new growth and supporting public infrastructure and services should occur. After the adoption of the General Plan, the comprehensive zoning plan and other development regulations may need to be amended to ensure that planned future development helps achieve important community quality of life, environmental, and economic goals.
How can you participate in the General Plan update?
The Department of Planning and Zoning is in the process of setting up a separate web site for the General Plan in order to make it easier for citizens to find information on General Plan issues and the schedule for public forums and hearings. The site will be interactive and encourage citizen input in a variety of ways. As soon as the General Plan website is up, there will be a link from DPZ’s home page on the County’s website.