A good comprehensive plan is like a contract between a government and its people. It represents the public’s highest aspirations; it reflects citizens’ problems and concerns, based on accurate information; it carefully develops solutions hand in hand between the government and those it serves. When the right steps are followed, elected officials have the backing of the electorate when they implement the Plan.
A good citizen participation process engages the public at every stage of the process, from:
Public review of the current plan and its implementation,
Public discussion and debate through the preparation of several drafts of the plan,
A public forum on the plan, and
In the development of the Comprehensive Plan that was just approved by the Planning Commission, the first three steps were combined into one set of workshops with attendance too small to be representative of public opinion.
The next three steps were either not done or done without any citizen engagement. Between the release of the complete plan in May 2018 and the public hearing in February, there were just three quickly arranged open houses in June with three days public notice.
At the hearing, 90% of the citizens testified asking for changes to the plan and yet there was no Planning Commission discussion of the citizens’ comments before the Plan was adopted.
There was never any public presentation of the plan and no engagement with county groups to explain the changes in policy proposed and now adopted. Combine this with the citizen process employed, and we still don’t know ...
why the consultant failed to provide any solid recommendations on restoring Calvert’s land preservation program even though land preservation is listed as one of the two top priorities in the Land Use section of the Plan;
why growth will no longer be linked to the adequacy of our roads, schools, and water supply;
why town centers and residential areas were proposed for expansion; and
what the impacts will be from these expansions. It was never discussed.
That said, it is time to move on. It is now time for the Board of County Commissioners to consider what has been approved and make its own decision. This time, let’s hope that citizens will be encouraged to participate and will be heard.