Shortly after taking office, County Executive Steuart Pittman implemented Visioning Anne Arundel, a series of small area meetings to get public input for the upcoming General Development Plan.
There were 17 small area meetings from April through June. The meetings allowed community members to prioritize remaining recommendations from the Small Area Plan and 2009 GDP looking toward 2040.
In Severna Park, the overwhelming priorities of citizens were density of growth, traffic and maintaining open space.
Doug Nichols, a 64-year resident of Severna Park who attended the Severna Park small area meeting, said a top priority for him is maintaining low-density housing. In Nichols’ words, this “allowed Severna Park to be a pleasant home to its residents, while keeping commercial development to supporting [areas] and providing required services and products to its residents.”
“Preserving Severna Park as a number of commuter communities has allowed for privacy and those with common interests to share with each other the benefits of a small town,” Nichols said.
However, Pittman said a goal moving forward is to provide housing for employees of new jobs coming to the county, as well as affordable housing for young people starting their careers and seniors who want to age in place. He highlighted allowing a higher density around transportation networks — trains stations, the airport — to allow them to be mixed-use areas.
“By having these mixed use, smart growth and transit-oriented developments, we maintain open space, we get cars off the road and we continue to have a tax base that helps to pay for the needs that we have in our community,” Pittman said.
Pittman plans to submit the GDP in the spring of 2020. The Citizens Advisory Committee is currently reviewing information gathered from the Visioning Anne Arundel meetings, and the representative from each small area will be responsible for knowing what those communities are saying to represent it in the process, Pittman said.
“We will have input and make suggestions for changes before it is officially introduced as the GDP,” said District 5 councilwoman Amanda Fiedler. “There will be a collaborative effort between the Office of Planning and Zoning, the council members with respect to our respective districts and trying to get it as right as possible before it’s introduced.”
The new plan will be in a phase of drafts and revisions through the end of the year, according to a timeline on the county’s website. The public forum and online comment period will open up in December, and after going through more revisions, the county council will hold public hearings in April and May of 2020.
The public input collected at the Visioning Anne Arundel meetings will serve as one of the many factors when deciding on county-wide priorities.
“There are community interests that can be parochial sometimes, and then there are county-wide interests. That’s why these representatives get together,” Pittman said. “They have to decide as a group what the county wide interests are, as well. I hope they buy into smart growth principles, transit-oriented principles, and acknowledge that we have a looming crisis in workforce housing that our chamber of commerce and others have been warning us about for years.”