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Work to begin January 2013


Staff writer

The county commissioners directed staff this week to continue with its proposed process for updating the Prince Frederick Town Center Master Plan.

During Tuesday’s Calvert County Board of County Commissioners meeting, Principal Planner Jenny Plummer-Welker presented the BOCC with a draft timeline and the various processes for updating the town center’s master plan. The board was in consensus for staff to proceed as proposed.

The update is proposed for completion in two phases and, during both, the master plan and zoning ordinance will be worked on concurrently.

“I am very, very leery of trying to do ordinances at the same that you’re doing planning,” Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said.

She said that is what has made the St. Leonard Town Center Master Plan update “a disaster.”

“I can see reaching a consensus on where you’re going ... as a plan, and then start implementing right away the zoning ordinance.

“But it’s too easy, if you’re trying to do them at the same time, for the focus to shift to the ordinance piece as opposed to the focus on what we really want this town to look like,” she explained.

Director of Community Planning and Building Chuck Johnston said he understood her concerns, but that “there’s a really specific outline” for the ordinances while in the process rather than the ordinances jumping ahead of the vision.

Commissioners’ President Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) said there were other problems with the St. Leonard update, including an election cycle and the contention over water and sewer.

“But Susan, on the other side of that, we can’t have it both ways. We asked the department to figure out ways to [expedite] and do this process in a more confined amount of time. They deserve the support from us to look at their ways of being able to do that because one of the criticisms this department gets all the time is how long it takes to do things,” he said.

Shaw said she agreed with Clark, but “the word ‘concurrent’ is what’s making me anxious because one process really has to lead the other a little bit, even if it’s a little bit.”

She said she could go along with the proposed process “as long as it’s clear that the vision is leading [the ordinances] ... and that there is some consensus on the vision.”

The first phase, to be completed by May 2014, will focus on the north corridor study area encompassing the land from the northern town center boundary to the northern intersection of Main Street and Route 2/4. The second phase will focus on the other four study areas — the south corridor, the west side, the old town and the east side, or remaining land within the town center boundary — to be completed by September 2015.

At the beginning of the new year, staff expressed that it would like to begin collecting and analyzing data regarding environmental conditions, land use, traffic, housing, public facilities, etc., and to establish a liaison group.

There will be a kick-off meeting in which staff will provide an overview of the current plan and what has been accomplished as well as presenting the public with initial analysis and outlines. This meeting will be scheduled for April or June 2013.

For the town center’s master plan update, staff has suggested bringing in a consulting firm to expedite the process, resulting in a “charette,” or multi-day collaborative design and planning workshop held on site and inclusive of all affected stakeholders. Staff estimates the cost of bringing in a consulting firm to be about $95,000 and the process, in total, is expected to last about four months.

Will Selman, a county community designer, said the charette is more than just a design workshop.

“It’s really a series of both [a design workshop and a visioning session] over several days. And the idea is to bring all players in the community together within a four, five, six day period.”

The charette, Selman said, is when the consulting firm would be brought in “to do a lot of different things at once.” He said this includes working with citizens and their visions and concerns and bringing in all the departments involved, such as engineering, housing and soil preservation.

“In this process, everybody sits down at the table together at the same time so that, for instance, people concerned with housing issues can hear the issues that traffic engineers have to deal with. So that everybody understands all the issues involved.”

Staff proposes to present the amendments to both the master plan and the zoning ordinance “as a package” by October 2013. The proposed amendments would then be sent to the Calvert County Planning Commission, which will then send them to the BOCC upon approval for adoption between April and June 2014.

A public hearing for the amendments of phase 1 is proposed to occur between January and May 2014. However, staff made it clear it would be continuing public outreach throughout the entire master plan update process.

Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) pointed out that “Solomons was completed in a year and a half, a major town center, and yet, just a part of this town center is being proposed to take a year and a half.

“So how can we abbreviate this schedule?” he asked staff, adding that he would like to see the process compressed to nine months or six months.

“We’re not going to use this schedule to hold us back, if you will,” explained Johnston, noting the time certain things take and the time regulated for certain aspects of the process.

A focus meeting is proposed for each of the remaining study areas, beginning between July and September 2014. Following the focus meetings, the process will follow the same path as phase 1.

Plummer-Welker also presented the BOCC with a comprehensive town center master plan update timeline, including St. Leonard, Lusby and Huntingtown updates.

According to this timeline, St. Leonard is scheduled to be completed by March 2013 with the associated zoning ordinances to begin then and be completed by the end of next year.

The Lusby update is proposed to begin January 2014.

The Prince Frederick update phase 1 will run concurrently with the St. Leonard zoning ordinance amendment updates and the Lusby master plan update. Phase II will run concurrently with the Lusby master plan update and its associated zoning amendments.

The Huntingtown update is still on hold pending a traffic corridor study by the Maryland State Highway Administration.