Plan 2040 — A Work In Progress

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Two volumes, 418 pages of terms, maps, goals, polices and strategies. A combined 277 land use change requests or recommendations. Bill 11-21, also known as Plan 2040 or the General Development Plan (GDP), is before the Anne Arundel County Council. Introduced on February 1, it will have two final opportunities for amendments during the April legislative meetings of the council, before the final public hearing on May 3.

This is one of many steps in a multiyear process, planning for future growth in Anne Arundel County. In the years leading up to Plan 2040’s introduction, there have been numerous community meetings and citizen input opportunities. There has been changes in leadership and staff in the Office of Planning and Zoning. There has been a pandemic. There have been concerns, questions and requests for additional content, as multiple drafts were shared in online forums.

The plan is built off four areas of focus. One focus is planning for the natural environment. These are goals and recommended strategies for forests, waterways, preservations and the like. Planning for the built environment consists of goals and recommended strategies for land use, infrastructure, transportation revitalization and historic protections. Planning for healthy communities focuses on public education, aging populations, and county resources including our parks, waste removal and public safety. Finally, planning for a healthy economy, which discusses job growth, commercial revitalization and expansion in local business.

There are more than a dozen maps that identify everything from poverty and race to sea level rise and development policy areas. You could get lost in the details.

Since the bill was introduced, the county council has been working individually and collectively to review and amend the bill with input from stakeholders, including residents like you. Anne Arundel is a county consisting of seven districts. Plan 2040 divides the county into nine geographic regions. District 5 (Severna Park, Arnold and the Broadneck area) is part of Region 4. Region 4 consists of both District 5 and District 3 (Pasadena). As the final vote is cast on Plan 2040, regional plans will begin.

Regional plans, as indicated in the GDP and our existing code, will consist of at least nine members of the community. These stakeholder advisory committees (SACs) will be tasked with working collaboratively in producing the details of how each region should grow in the next two decades, using Plan 2040 as a “guide.” This process will incorporate regional rezoning in its conclusion.

The term “guide” has been used often during this process. Unlike the previous General Development Plan, this GDP is expected to be amended as the regional plans are developed. Because regional plans and comprehensive rezoning must be compatible with Plan 2040, any recommendations in regional plans that are inconsistent with Plan 2040 will require an amendment to this “guiding” document. This has been very confusing for many folks, understandably.

The administration and Office of Planning and Zoning have indicated that only three regions can be reviewed at a time and each region will take two to three years to complete. Nine regions, only three completed at a time, that will take two to three years each in a process that is required by law every eight years. If you are doing the math, the next General Development Plan will begin before Plan 2040 is finalized. This has been a different approach than previous General Development Plans, and one that I have heard many concerns over.

As I continue communications with residents through this process, I have identified areas that the community repeatedly vocalizes. Here are just a few:

Small business land use – established in the 2009 GDP, this land use was used as a transitional category for properties that were residential in feel and scope but commercial in use. In Plan 2040, this land use category is no longer a standalone category but has been moved under the “commercial” classification along with higher intensified commercial uses. This has created challenges for those small businesses that were seeking that classification and do not wish to concern their neighbors with the potential “commercial creep.”

Staff Recommended (SR) land use changes – well-intended map cleanups that would resolve split-zoned properties (residential and maritime or commercial and open space as an example). While every property owner with a staff-recommended land use change was notified through mail, the unknown potential for future restrictions on the properties because of these land use changes is concerning.

Input from citizen advisory committee members during the drafting process – many members have reached out to express their frustration over this process and the general feeling that their input was not taken as seriously as they felt it should have been during the drafting of Plan 2040.

You can expect these issues and others to be a topic of conversation during our final work session on April 13 and public legislative meeting on April 19. For viewing information, please visit the Anne Arundel County Council website at www.aacounty.org/departments/county-council.

There is a history in our county of backroom deals taking place during this particularly important piece of legislation. That will not happen on my watch. I am committed to transparent conversations and communications with residents like you, and I am always available to answer any questions that you and your family may have. You can reach me at amanda.fiedler@aacounty.org.

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