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Our Frederick County Commissioners’ In-Comprehensible Land Use Plan

8,053,063,680 hits in just 27 weeks?

Where's Lawrence Welk when we need him?

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to thank all those of you are following the MacRo Report Blog!  I’m actually a bit overwhelmed by the response.  It’s only been a month, and our regular Thursday “This Week’s Blog Post” email has assisted in causing our site visits to double every week.  Based upon my calculations, if our growth rate continues at this pace we will surpass the entire population of the earth within the next 23 weeks! (OK, you mathematicians, how many hits did we get last week?)

OK, so while my projections are incomprehensible, they are also ludicrous to the 100 millionth degree!

In all seriousness, we at MacRo, Ltd. are humbled by the response … I hope that we remain worthy of your interest in the weeks and months to come!  Thank you!

Speaking of Incomprehensible

In last Tuesday’s post “18,000 Lots in 13 years?” I provided math on why I am skeptical about the ability of the Board of County Commissioners to actually be able to fulfill the projections they adopted in the Comprehensive Plan for our county – including its twelve  incorporated jurisdictions.

I was very fortunate to have been able to speak with some current and former planning staff members of both Frederick County and Frederick City governments, as well “OTHERS” who are far from LOST in their knowledge of county issues.

While there are many others to talk to, I have come away with the opinion that when it comes to mapping out a plan to achieve their own growth projections that section should be called an In-Comprehensible Plan.

As big as our county is with all its different incorporated areas, I can’t find where anyone is leading the orchestra!  Where is Lawrence Welk when we need him?!?!?

Battle of the Bands?

As for the staff planners in both the County and the City, I have found them all to be  well-trained professionals … and they are not where the problem lies.  It comes down to “who” is directing them and is that “who” allowing them to put their training and experience to its best use.

After several conversations I had to go back and check to make sure I understood the definition of the word “Comprehensive” when used in the context of “Comprehensive Planning.”  Simply put it means “including all or everything; completeness; the widest cover available – all parts apply.”

To that end I have been very fortunate to participate in dozens of high level strategic and comprehensive planning sessions for the various community and corporate boards that I have served.  The first steps are to identify your purpose, include all stakeholders in the process, learn and plan through a collaborative effort and then map out an achievable plan.

What is truly incomprehensible and ludicrous to me is that it seems that while our Board of County Commissioners boasts of the hundreds of hours they have sat through county hearings to gain input from the public in developing their plan; they appear to have made little to no effort to include any representatives from Frederick City, nor any from those other eleven jurisdictions.  Maybe it’s that long standing “bubble culture” that has floated around for years in our county, or maybe it is an outright arrogance on the part of certain members of the BOCC, who believe that they just know better … that same arrogance that has contributed to the blatantly obvious inability to collaborate with most of the incorporated areas with the county.

One time I introduced my orchestra as the Shampoo Music Makers instead of the Champagne Music Makers – Lawrence Welk

I am sure that at some level the City and County planners (those professionals that I referenced) do communicate , but it seems to me that our “bubble culture” often doesn’t take it much further than referencing the comprehensive plan of their counterpart.

For example, just take a look at the City of Frederick Comprehensive plan (adopted last year),  it makes it very clear that in order to achieve its growth objectives, it needs to annex certain properties from the County into the City (i.e. the 2009 annexations: Thrasher, Crum and Summers’ farms).  It also addresses the US 15 traffic matter with a eastern bypass loop road within future annex areas.  The City cannot achieve its growth objectives, much less those of the County without these annexations.

The County,  with all the grand planning in its April 2010 effort, is essentially relying on Frederick City and to a lesser extent the other eleven  jurisdictions to fulfill a shortfall of about 16,000 new and undeveloped housing units by 2030.  But while the County plan acknowledges the City plan and its annexation area, it does not show an eastern bypass.  But what is incomprehensible and ludicrous is that a majority of the commissioners oppose the 2009 City annexations, claiming one of the reasons is that there is no solution to US 15 traffic problem.

Just think about what that lack of collaboration costs all Frederick County taxpayers!

I’ve spoken to a couple of City Planning Commission members who tell me that over the 18 months in the two or so joint “attempts” at co-planning between the City and the County have called “totally unproductive,” where BOCC president Jan Gardner, etc., was “just downright condescending.”

There are good days and there are bad days, and this is one of them – Lawrence Welk

I did come away with some encouraging news.  The County planning staff did acknowledge that there are some inconsistencies in their numbers and as they update their December 2008 Residential Needs and Development Capacity Analysis Report,  they hope to identify how to address them … my hope is that our Commissioners will listen, but frankly I still think that the County plan will fall painfully short of their own goal.  The sad news I sense is that the only way they will have success in achievement is if the economy remains very sluggish for the next ten or more years!

While it may be very simple for the average business person to walk about 2 blocks from Winchester Hall to City Hall, there is something that does not allow elected officials  to float their bubbles in the same direction … and that is incomprehensible!

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