Monday, October 24, 2005

Charrette done

Since I was unable to attend the final session of the Charrette, the only information I have is what is included in this article from the Baltimore Sun on Sunday. The story offers few details (and the county Charrette website, which has failed to live up to it's promise of frequent updates, continues the trend), but the details are not necessarily important now. There will be plenty of time to sort out these issues in the coming months.

What is important is that we remember that the process is not over. Indeed, the long hours of the last week are just the beginning. County planning director Marsha McLaughlin understands:

Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of the county's Department of Planning and Zoning, said that yesterday was not the end of the process. Public input is still welcome before the Howard County Council approves the final plan, which McLaughlin said will likely not be exactly as presented yesterday.

She said the weeklong process was not long enough to sort out all the details -- such as zoning and infrastructure needs -- but those aspects will be addressed next.

"We want to turn this into a living, breathing master plan," she said.

By Tuesday, it became apparent to me, and others I talked to, that one week, regardless of how hard the planners and citizens worked, was not enough time to address all of the issues involved with Town Center (re)development. Historically, charrettes have been used to address smaller-scale projects, controversial local issues dealing with only one or a handful of properties, not the entire downtown (570 acres) of a medium-sized city (population: 100,000ish).

We asked a lot of the Charrette and it asked a lot of us. And, in total, I think both the process, the planners, and the citizens rose to the challenge. However, given the type of community we live in, anything less would have been shocking. From the details I gathered from the above story and from my experiences at the meetings during the last week, I think twenty years from now we'll be able to look back and say we did it the right way.

Of course, I haven't seen the plan yet.

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