November 18, 2017
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  • At recent listening sessions, attendees were surveyed on what they would prioritize in the General Development Plan regarding development, the environment, the economy and community health. The General Development Plan will guide the county’s use of land, capitalization of assets and conservation of critical resources for the next 20 years.
    At recent listening sessions, attendees were surveyed on what they would prioritize in the General Development Plan regarding development, the environment, the economy and community health. The General Development Plan will guide the county’s use of land, capitalization of assets and conservation of critical resources for the next 20 years.
  • At recent listening sessions, attendees were surveyed on what they would prioritize in the General Development Plan regarding development, the environment, the economy and community health. The General Development Plan will guide the county’s use of land, capitalization of assets and conservation of critical resources for the next 20 years.
    At recent listening sessions, attendees were surveyed on what they would prioritize in the General Development Plan regarding development, the environment, the economy and community health. The General Development Plan will guide the county’s use of land, capitalization of assets and conservation of critical resources for the next 20 years.

Listening Sessions Solicit Citizen Input For General Development Plan

Dylan Roche
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November 3, 2017

How Do Anne Arundel’s Residents Envision The County 20 Years From Now?

When people think about planning for the future, they might think about career goals, health goals or family goals. They might consider how they could retire earlier, quit smoking or have another baby.

But what about their community goals? When people look around at the area they call home, do they have an idea of what they want it to look like in five, 10 or even 20 years?

As Anne Arundel County begins the process to form its General Development Plan (GDP) — which is 

formed roughly every 10 years but conceived to shape a course for the next 20 years — representatives from the Office of Planning and Zoning have sought input from citizens on their concerns and priorities at a series of eight listening sessions — scheduled once or twice a month through February 2018 at various locations around the county — with the intention of figuring out how to guide land use, capitalize on assets and conserve critical resources.

At the listening sessions, one message in particular has been clear. “The people are concerned with the amount and the rate of residential development,” said Phil Hagar, officer of Planning and Zoning.

Although the GDP, which will ultimately be adopted by the county council in 2020, might address land use, water resources, transportation, community facilities and many other issues, those who spoke at the listening session held at Broadneck High School on October 17 traced all these components back to the root issue of overdevelopment and overpopulation.

“People come to this county because of the quality of life it has to offer — the good schools, the open space, the wooded areas, the opportunities not to live in concrete,” said Severna Park resident Lisa Bender. “Developing all available areas will destroy the reason people want to come here. If you say people want to come here because of the quality of life and then destroy the quality of life, we’re going to be inner city in no time at all.” As a substitute teacher, Bender shared her experience seeing schools overcrowded and educators strained with their resources, and the schools put up mobile classrooms while the developers put up more homes. “This is not how we should treat our children,” she said.

Bender also urged Planning and Zoning to consider the environmental impact of development and how repairing the damage has fallen to citizens and nonprofit organizations. “Developers should be held responsible for what they do not only when they develop but for what happens after they develop,” she said, citing the expansion of Westfield Annapolis Mall that caused damage to nearby creeks. The Severn Riverkeeper, she explained, had to get a multimillion-dollar grant to fix it.

Others spoke about the problems overpopulation has had on infrastructure and traffic. Dr. Sally Hornor of Arnold noted “the economics of development,” citing how the cost of maintaining the infrastructure strained by so many people exceeds the tax revenue that extra population brings in. “I’ve talked with quite a few experts on this matter, and many of them will say that even though there seems to be this thought we need more development to bring taxes into the county, the true cost of development is not being considered,” she said.

Amy Leahy of Severna Park described the “unbelievable” traffic commuters face on Ritchie Highway every day. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Ritchie Highway has had more accidents since most of the growth and development has taken place,” she said. “It’s a huge mess, and it takes forever to get anywhere in this area.”

In addition to the chance to speak, attendees at the listening sessions cast their votes for what they consider to be the three priorities for the GDP in areas such as building, the environment, the economy and community health.

Hagar said the one downside of conducting these surveys via public meetings is that they lose input from part of the population. “One thing we know already that we’re lacking is people from the younger component of the population,” he said. “We have great participation from those in the middle bracket and those in the older bracket, but no younger people. It’s important that we have them because they represent the future, and the plan is about the future.”

To accommodate younger citizens, who Hagar noted “tend to be more likely to participate if something is in electronic media,” the survey is available at www.aacounty.org/departments/planning-and-zoning. Select “Plan 2040: Updating the GDP” under “In The Spotlight,” and then click “Plan 2040 Kickoff Survey” on the right-hand side. “The goal is to get the broadest sampling possible, to reach as many people as possible,” Hagar said.

Upcoming listening sessions will be held on November 30 at Old Mill High School, December 11 at Arundel High School, January 11 at Annapolis High School, January 29 at Northeast High School, February 8 at Southern High School and February 22 at Brooklyn Park High School. All sessions are from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

The process will continue throughout 2018 and 2019 before going to the county council at the end of 2019. “This is a comprehensive plan; it’s an involved process and there’s a lot that goes into these things,” Hagar said. “This is the opportunity for people to get their comments in. The General Development Plan engagement process provides an opportunity for people to participate in the overall development process and share what’s on their mind and the things they care about. That helps shape the direction for the future.”


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