Baltimore County Releases Master Plan Outlining The Next Decade Of Development: Focuses On Retrofitting And Climate Resilience


Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski speaks to a crowd in Essex. (Credit: Baltimore County/ Youtube)

BALTIMORE COUNTY - Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski released the draft Master Plan 2030 on Monday. The nearly hundred-page long interactive document lays out a framework to guide the County Executive, the County Council, and County departments in promoting responsible development in an equitable and environmentally sensitive manner throughout the next decade and beyond.

"Master Plan 2030 establishes a vision and sets important priorities for our rapidly growing, diverse communities and maps out a better, more equitable, and more sustainable Baltimore County," Olszewski said. "I thank everyone who participated in this public interactive planning process—including our team from the Department of Planning—and am confident the final plan will reflect the vision and needs of everyone who lives, works, and visits Baltimore County."

The public will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft Master Plan until Friday, April 14, and may submit feedback through an online comment form. The final Master Plan 2030 will be released following the completion of the public comment period.

Creation of the 2030 Master Plan:

The Baltimore County 2030 Master Plan represents the culmination of a two-year process that began in the spring of 2021. The plan was formulated with input from local experts, stakeholders, and County agencies, as well as deliberation and coordination among numerous County agencies and Department of Planning staff.

From the start of the process, more than 50 community meetings have been held with approximately 1,000 attendees and 4,000 comments and suggestions.

The plan uses the "Sustaining Places: Best Practices for Comprehensive Plans" guide, published by the American Planning Association (APA), as its framework. According to the county, the plan's ultimate goal is to "create livable, healthy communities in harmony with nature—communities that have resilient economies, social equity, and strong regional ties."

The plan is based on a "systems approach," with three interwoven themes and six guiding principles. These themes run throughout the plan elements, influencing the goals and actions that are found in the Master Plan 2030 vision framework:

  • Equity: Remaining inclusive in decision-making, ensuring equitable distribution of resources, and creating opportunity for all.
  • Sustainability: Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the County's public and internal government infrastructure and safeguarding the County's ecology and climate.
  • Vibrant communities: Ensuring all residents have access to high-quality, accessible, and affordable housing and cultural and recreational opportunities in safe communities while promoting responsible economic development.

Zoning, Growth, and Development in the Master Plan:

The document begins by discussing Baltimore County's Urban-Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) depicted in red in the image below.

According to the plan, about 90% of the County's population lives within the URDL, while the remaining 10% reside in rural areas. (Credit: Baltimore County Department of Planning)

The plan shows that Baltimore County is running out of development space in the urban zone. At the current construction rate for residential buildings, urban areas will reach full build-out in 20.7 years.

"After several decades, automobile dependence, traffic, strip malls, miles of paved and otherwise impervious surfaces, lack of physical and social connections are negative outcomes typical of the suburban experience, and all-too-familiar to County residents in the 21st Century."

To address the need for more space for future growth in the urban sections of Baltimore County, the Planning Department plans to retrofit areas of the County with aging infrastructure.

The Planning Department has developed a methodology to identify areas in the County most suitable for retrofitting.

The areas most suitable for retrofitting are highlighted in red on the map.

The County has also indicated a massive shift in the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process (CZMP), moving from once every four years to once a decade. According to the plan, this change aligns the CZMP with the Master Plan creation and "reduces staff time dedicated to the process and enables a shift of department resources into under-resourced planning activities."

To make zoning changes more transparent and accessible to the public, The County is updating the Comprehensive Manual of Development Policies (CMDP). The new CDMP will be a "living document" with a more modern visual interface and will be available online for ease of access by the public.

Water Resource Element:

In 2007, Maryland issued its first Water Resource Element (WRE) models and guidelines to assist local governments with planning and zoning authority in developing their WREs.

Since the issuance of the original guidance, there have been two substantial changes to Maryland's water resource and environmental management programs.

  • In 2015, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change was codified into law (Environment Article §2-1301 through 1306), requiring state agencies to review their "planning, regulatory, and fiscal programs to identify and recommend actions to more fully integrate the consideration of Maryland's greenhouse gas reduction goal and the impacts of climate change."
  • In 2019, Maryland developed the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan that charts a course to achieve Chesapeake Bay nutrient and sediment Water Quality Standards (WQS) by 2025.

According to the plan, the analysis conducted in the Baltimore County 2010 WRE remains pertinent, and the projected population increase within the next ten years will be too small to change the conclusions of this WRE.

The 2010 WRE indicated that there will be adequate public water and sewer to serve a 2035 projected urban population of 810,411. The 2010 WRE also says that projected nonresidential water and sewer demand through 2030 (commercial, industrial) has been accounted for in its analysis.

The plan also says that future stormwater runoff management will not be an issue. According to the plan, "redevelopment is expected to reduce the quantity of stormwater runoff."

Stormwater quantity management is already required at all new development or redevelopment sites in inter-jurisdictional waterways (e.g., Gwynns Falls, Jones Falls, and Herring Run).

When development occurs at sites with no existing stormwater management facilities, the development must either create stormwater management facilities or the redevelopment must reduce the total amount of impervious surfaces.

Preparing for Climate Change:

In April 2021, the Baltimore County Climate Action Plan: Resilience Assessment for General County Government Assets was completed.

Climate change is expected to increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of precipitation events, which will increase flooding. Baltimore County is working with MDE to understand and mitigate these impacts through the Advancing Stormwater Resiliency in Maryland program.

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Not long ago Johnny wanted to let waterfront restaurants to expand to the waters edge.   He now wants more low income vouchers for the county as the population declines because of crime , schools    Johnny is doing to our county what his dad did to Dundalk.  

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Democrats want to make Baltimore City and Baltimore County, one big municipality . Jo honnney O wants to run for further office using this to propel him. We are well on our way to this. So what’s in it for us ? We’ve already seen them, higher crime, murders, change in shopping patters due to this  ( who goes to Towson Town Center )low income housing, worse traffic, terrible schools, change in the politics of the county, 

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