ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today signed HoCo By Design, the County’s General Plan, approving the growth and development framework for the next two decades in the County. Initiated in 2020, the Plan reflects over three and a half years of community engagement, including 99 public meetings, and over 8400 public comments prior to submission to the County Council, which is the most transparent, robust process for community engagement of a general plan in Howard County history. The Council’s seven-month review process included nine work sessions and three public hearings. The approved Plan provides an equitable, predictable, sustainable and achievable roadmap for Howard County’s future land use and environmental protection.
After more than three years of unprecedented community engagement, analysis, drafting, and months of collaboration, this legislation represents every voice as we create one vision for the County's future.This Plan is a first-of-its-kind for Howard County, providing the most comprehensive guidance to geographically targeted growth and redevelopment in our history while simultaneously balancing the need for enhanced environmental preservation and conservation. After considerable community collaboration, the final Plan increases future affordable housing opportunities and opens the door to more attainable missing middle housing types and accessory dwelling units that will provide options for residents of all ages and abilities. I want to thank our engaged community, the members of the Council, and my entire team who contributed their time and talent to ensure that this Plan reflected our shared goals of ensuring Howard County remains the best place to live, work, play, grow and thrive for all.
HoCo By Design incorporates over 80 amendments, demonstrating considerable collaboration between County government and the Council. The legislation adopting the Plan will go into effect on December 19, 2023, which is 61 days after the County Executive’s signature. The General Plan passed the County Council with a 4-1 vote on Wednesday, October 11, 2023.
The Department of Planning and Zoning, County Council and Office of Law are working together to incorporate all amendments adopted by Council and will finalize the Plan over the coming weeks. A public announcement will follow when the adopted Plan is posted to the County’s website.
Growth, Conservation, and Infrastructure
HoCo By Design sets a slower pace for future growth compared to the last 20 years, as most of the County has already been either conserved or developed. The Plan focuses future growth into activity centers, recognizing that much of future development will be in the form of the redevelopment of the existing built environment. This targeted growth strategy plans for a future that is more equitable, compact, and sustainable while addressing housing and commercial demand.
The Plan provides guidance to the task force overseeing the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) growth management system, which controls the pace of residential development and aims to ensure school and road capacity. These updates should account for current and anticipated development patterns, including infill and redevelopment of activity centers.
The Plan also provides critical direction to future zoning and development regulations. Growth management policy direction in the Plan will guide responsible future development while as the County becomes even more competitive economically.
The Plan proposes a variety of walkable mixed-use hubs, enhanced commercial centers and retention of valuable industrial land that will attract workers and promotes a housing strategy that keeps pace with new employment opportunities.
The Plan offers innovative ideas to address the educational needs of our students. It also supports the attraction and retention of jobs that offer employment opportunities for a diverse workforce with a variety of skill and educational levels.
It reinforces the County’s commitment to agriculture and preserving rural character, advocating for modern farming initiatives and infrastructure that will allow the agricultural industry to prosper and remain competitive in Howard County.
HoCo By Design balances the need for appropriate growth and diverse housing opportunities while preserving and enhancing our environment.
The Plan particularly focuses on a full spectrum of affordable opportunities and opens the door to more attainable missing middle housing types and accessory dwelling units that provide options for residents of all ages and abilities.
HoCo By Design emphasizes affordable housing preservation and revitalization of older, more affordable neighborhoods whose housing stock offers mixed-income opportunities for both existing and new residents. It also encourages enhancing facilities and amenities in existing communities.
HoCo By Design emphasizes continued protection and restoration of our ecological health through preservation of open space and agricultural lands. It advocates for environmental stewardship on public and private property, enhanced regulations and incentives for natural resource protection and dedicated funding for environmental programs.
The Plan calls for county programs and policies to incorporate goals that will help mitigate climate change and help communities become more energy independent. It advocates for continued progress in flood mitigation and stormwater management requirements that address changing precipitation patterns.
The Plan also promotes continued agricultural land preservation and recommends enhanced programing and planning to support the long-term viability of Howard County farms.
The Plan advocates for a thoughtful approach to future growth by encouraging appropriate development that preserves, promotes and complements the existing diverse character of the County.
The Plan also recommends that all new communities and developments include walkable, accessible and inclusive public spaces with features such as public art, pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, parks, or other community amenities.
HoCo By Design supports continuous assessment of and investment in our transportation system to ensure its safety, accessibility, and operability. It advocates for a transportation system that prioritizes safety and mitigates the most severe types of crashes for motorists, transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
The Plan calls for an equitable transportation system that closes mobility gaps and improves access to jobs, health care, education, and social services. It also recognizes the need to move users from place to place while expanding the number of destinations walkers, cyclists, drivers, and transit riders can reliably access.
Route 1 Corridor
The Plan also includes a Route 1 Corridor Plan for Washington Blvd featuring a future civic district for South Elkridge. This Plan envisions supporting and retaining the Corridor's industrial and manufacturing base while targeting strategic activity center locations for new commercial, light industrial, and residential development.
The Plan advocates for unique architecture, recognizable gateways, and uniform branding to elevate the Corridor’s character and create a place that is unique, inviting, and memorable. It supports preserving historic Elkridge and Savage—the northern and southern gateways of the Corridor—and emphasizes the need for a safe transportation system that expands walking, cycling and transit options while enhancing local streets.