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Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Most Important Thing Happining in Howard County

OK so I hyped the title to get you to look at today’s blog.  If I would have given it a more accurate title like, “Howard County Plans for its future to 2030” I would probably have a handful of blog views today.

So what is the “important thing” that I mentioned in the title?  Howard County is now in the process of developing a General Plan for the County.  Normally the planning period is a plan for 10 years but this time the time frame has been extended to 2030.  So is the general plan of interest only to developers because it does identify where new development is likely to occur in the next decade or two?  What is different about this plan is that it will also include a look at human services and quality of life issues that past plans didn’t address. 

The general plan lays out its task as follows:

Comprehensive general plan. Within five years from the adoption of the comprehensive rezoning plan, the Department of Planning and Zoning shall coordinate the preparation and revision of a general plan for the County, including but not limited to a plan for land use and land conservation and multiyear development plans for transportation, public facilities, water, sewerage, parkland, housing, human services and environmental protection. The General Plan shall follow general guidelines promulgated by the Planning Board and adopted by the County Council.

Among the general plan guidelines is to “Identify means of improving the quality of life of special populations (homeless, foreign born, developmentally disabled, adolescents, seniors aging in community, etc.).”

The inclusion in this General Plan of the look at human services comes out of the Howard County Human Services Master Plan that was jointly developed in 2005 by the Howard County Department of Citizens Services and the Association of Community Services of Howard County.  The document set out to identify “Quality of Life” indicators for individuals and families, children and youth, older adults and the disabled.

The Plan “identified four overarching issues: housing, homelessness, transportation and access to services. The first result in this report, “Individuals and families are able to meet their basic needs,” was added after the committees recognized that these overarching issues are economic ones. Indicators for this
result address housing and transportation issues, but not homelessness and access to services. That does not mean that these two critical issues will be forgotten. Implementing the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness continues to be a priority. The County’s newly created Board to Promote Self-Sufficiency
will be working with community advocates to build on the framework established by the Homelessness Board. Access to services includes issues such as barriers faced by people living with disabilities, language and cultural barriers, location and hours of services, and transportation. These issues are not always
specifically noted in this document, but it should be understood that addressing them is critical throughout.”

Now and throughout the rest of the year the Office of Planning and Zoning will be discussing issues to be addressed and attempting to get public input.  The next time will be 7 p.m. on Aug. 24 at the Howard Building in Ellicott City to address topics that include transportation and infrastructure. You can complain about what is happening in the County if you don’t get engaged in the discussions.

A good way to stay informed is to follow the Sarah Says Blog.

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