ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County today released the draft “HoCo By Design” general plan update for public review and comment. The draft plan follows a 2.5-year planning process garnering extensive community engagement. 

HoCo By Design provides a long-term vision for how Howard County will develop and grow alongside our evolving economic, environmental, and social conditions over the next 20 years. The general plan is a requirement of state law and has been updated once each decade since 1960 to reflect the values and address the needs of the County's changing population.

Throughout the plan development process, the project team conducted extensive public outreach, featuring formal and informal conversations, online mapping activities, a virtual 3-D interactive workshop, open house, surveys, and numerous public forums. To date, the project team has:

  • received over 12,000 total comments generated from nearly 1,700 survey responses;
  • facilitated or participated in nearly 100 community meetings, including 28 focus groups with diverse audiences; and
  • distributed over 81,000 fliers to Howard County residents.

The planning process kicked off in the summer of 2020 with the adoption of plan guidelines and the creation of a Planning Advisory Committee. The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) HoCo By Design project team adjusted to the emergence of COVID-19 by adapting traditional forms of community engagement to virtual and web-based platforms. As the threat of community transmission eased, hybrid events, allowing for both in-person and virtual participation, became the new normal.

This planning process set out to define a future for our County that follows our vision of ‘Every Voice, One Vision’. The HoCo By Design project team raised the bar for community engagement, garnering extensive input despite a myriad of challenges presented by the pandemic. As we continue to move forward with the general plan update, I encourage residents to provide their input.

Calvin Ball
Howard County Executive

The draft plan builds upon the strengths of the County’s current general plan, PlanHoward 2030, by advancing policies through a four-pronged approach focused on being more:

  • equitable, advancing equity-focused policies;
  • predictable, targeting discrete areas for change and providing direction for capital investment;
  • sustainable, proposing development of compact mixed-use activity centers; advancing investment in environmental programs; ensuring a fiscally balanced approach; and
  • achievable, presenting specific, measurable, and realistic implementing actions.

“For the first time, we have made a deliberate choice to anchor our vision for growth and development in equity,” said Office of Human Rights and Equity Administrator Yolanda F. Sonnier. “By bringing the planning process to traditionally unheard communities, HoCo By Design has created a diverse and inclusive plan for all who call Howard County home.”

HoCo By Design’s policies and implementing actions aim to protect our natural environment, strengthen economic opportunities, expand transportation options, promote diverse housing choices, prioritize community character, and balance growth and conservation. The plan is complemented by a comprehensive, long-range vision for the Route 1 Corridor: A Plan for Washington Boulevard.

The draft plan and accompanying background documents are available for public review on the project website, hocobydesign.com. Residents are encouraged to provide feedback via the online comment form on the website through January 16, 2023.

“I am proud of the record levels of engagement reflected in the draft, and we will continue to refine the plan’s contents over the next few months,” said DPZ Director Amy Gowan. “Whether you have attended 10 meetings or are learning about the plan for the first time, we welcome every comment as we work to ensure HoCo By Design meets the needs of our entire community.”

Between December 2022 and February 2023, the plan will be presented to both the Spending Affordability Advisory Committee (SAAC) and Planning Board for review. The SAAC, which was appointed by Executive Ball on November 29, 2022, will evaluate the assumptions and analysis in the fiscal model that supports the draft plan. The Planning Board will consider HoCo By Design’s goals, policies, and implementing actions and make a recommendation to the County Council regarding the plan’s adoption.

Public input will be considered and incorporated into a final plan, which is expected to be presented to the County Council for its consideration and final adoption in spring of 2023.

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