LAUREL – Laurel’s Master Plan, the comprehensive document that will help the city government and other entities plot the course of the community over the coming years, may now be just one meeting away from being passed. The final chance for public input will be at a hearing held during the July 25 meeting of […]
LAUREL – Laurel’s Master Plan, the comprehensive document that will help the city government and other entities plot the course of the community over the coming years, may now be just one meeting away from being passed.
The final chance for public input will be at a hearing held during the July 25 meeting of the Laurel City Council, which could then vote to approve and adopt the plan that same night. No one spoke during the public hearing held at the council’s July 11 meeting.
That nearly brings to a close a process that began a little more than a year ago to update the city’s master plan, which was last adopted in 2007 and then amended in 2009. While state law requires master plans like this one to be reviewed every 10 years, the city government intends to stick to a five-year schedule “so it stays fresh,” said Jack Brock, director of the city’s department of economic and community development.
Among the updates in the new master plan are information, statistics and trends from the years since the plan was last published. Incorporating that new data allows the city to analyze it and make projections for the future.
“More importantly, it’s updating the goals, objectives and policies of the city,” Brock said. “You need to examine the master plan over that five-year period to see that you’re accomplishing those objectives. If not, why? Do they need to be changed? Are they not a good idea?”
Those goals, objectives and policies cover a broad swath: community facilities, housing, land use, municipal growth, public safety, recreation, transportation and water resources. They plan for a region whose population has grown significantly and a city whose borders may expand even further through the annexation of nearby residential and commercial land parcels.
“There are goals and objectives that are ongoing, and there are new objectives that have popped up during the past nine years that the (master plan) committee wanted to include and have the city look at as far as future development is concerned,” Brock said.
Among the new recommendations: documenting properties outside of the city’s historic districts that may merit preservation; encouraging affordable and accessible housing for all, including the economically disadvantaged; supporting the Laurel Arts and Entertainment District and local arts in general; working with partners to remove fallen trees from the Patuxent River watershed to help prevent flooding and erosion and make the ecosystem healthier; and ensuring that flooding is minimized when water is released from the T. Howard Duckett Dam.
The report also recommends retaining full service at the Laurel MARC station; reducing traffic congestion through more people choosing instead to bicycle, walk or use public transit; and supporting the Laurel Train Station becoming a mixed-use development that also includes residential, retail, commercial and business spaces, as well as structured parking.
The meeting also had no public comment at the first hearing for a proposal to issue more than $5 million in bonds.
The bonds, $5,134,334 in total, would go toward facility maintenance improvements, fleet equipment purchases, information technology purchases, park improvements, street improvements, funding a portion of a capital reserve fund, and issuance costs and other related expenses.
A second hearing is scheduled for July 25.
The council unanimously approved $76,998 in funding for three marked police cars that will replace aging vehicles in the police department’s fleet. The three Chevrolet Impalas will be purchased from Criswell Chevrolet.
Dave Cope was named director of the city’s Office of the Fire Marshal and Permit Services, a new office that combines what had been two separate divisions. Cope was previously the fire marshal and has worked for the city since 2005.
The city announced the launch of its newly enhanced website. CityOfLaurel.org underwent its first significant overhaul in about six years. The improvements, which were completed by the government’s information technology staff, are intended to make the site more user-friendly, including for those accessing the website on smartphones.
Finally, Laurel was named a Banner City in late June at the annual Maryland Municipal League conference. The award goes to cities and towns that actively showcase municipal government and how it works. It is Laurel’s 10th straight year receiving the award.