(1/30) The Thurmont Board of Commissioners may soon see the light at the end of the tunnel in their efforts to update the town's master plan.
At Monday's municipal meeting, County Planner Denis Superczynski explained a potential schedule for the board to finish discussing the plan's remaining tasks. Mayor Martin Burns and the commissioners have been making their way through the plan since October, dissecting it for review each week.
Superczynski said the goal is for the planning and zoning commission to begin the process with a townwide mailing to property owners notifying them of the beginning of a 60-day application period. This creates the opportunity to open the process to landowners, while the commission looks at what potential changes they will make on the zoning
"We understand that individual owners might have ideas about what to do or what they may or may not want to do with their property," Superczynski said Monday. "(The planning and zoning commission) wants to get that input when they're still formulating their version of the zoning map."
The master plan operation will kick off in early February, when applications will be available to town residents.
"Ultimately we'll open up this process to property owners. They will be able to fill out a very straightforward application with a request," Superczynski said.
The 60-day reaction period will lead the plan into the end of March or early April, when the planning and zoning commission will have the applications back in hand for review.
"They'll be able to start work on a comprehensive zoning draft map based on commentary from folks who sent in applications," Superczynski said.
Calling the application process "a way to avoid chaos," he explained the costs associated, including staff time for processing applications, posting placards, sending mailings and public advertisements.
The draft application fee in 1998, the last time the master plan was dusted off, was $100. The commissioners voted unanimously to accept the staff recommendation of a $50 application fee. Burns was absent from that meeting.
Once the commission develops a draft map, they will pass it along to Burns and the Board of Commissioners, probably in early May.
Public hearings will be sprinkled into the process, offering an open forum for anyone interested in how the zoning map as a whole will fit into the master plan policies.
Superczynski is hopeful that the town commissioners will complete their review of the master plan, make any changes and hold a public hearing with the draft zoning map by the end of May.
"Hopefully by June we'll be wrapping it up and taking action on the master plan and comprehensive zoning map," Superczynski said. "Hopefully we can move into the summer with updated documents and get to actually implement the plan."
Superczynski stressed the fact that while the planning and zoning commission will be interested in residents' plans for properties, they're going to be keenly interested in how requests sync up with the master plan documentation, and how it fits into the community as a whole.
"We have to watch out for zoning decisions that may have negative impacts on the neighborhood," he said.