A crowd gathered in the cafeteria at Urbana High School on Thursday evening, studying maps and asking questions of Frederick County planning staff to get information about the development of a county plan for managing growth in the area around Sugarloaf Mountain.

The meeting was the first step in the development of the Sugarloaf Treasured Landscapes Area Plan, the first phase of the county’s Livable Frederick master plan.

Livable Frederick seeks to take a more comprehensive approach to planning and growth in the county.

For a long time, Frederick County did its planning based on parcels of land, Denis Superczynski, planning manager for the county’s Livable Frederick planning and design team, said Thursday evening.

While parcels are an important part of the planning process, they need to talk about the big picture before they move to those discussions, he said.

Areas around the county will be looked at from a planning perspective as part of the Livable Frederick plan, to determine the county’s future growth.

Small geographic areas, neighborhoods and villages will be studied to examine how they should change and grow.

Broader plans will also be incorporated to examine larger swaths of the county, as well as more thematic reviews of topics such as green or agricultural infrastructure.

Since Frederick County is the largest geographic county in Maryland, the need to focus on small individual areas is even more important, County Executive Jan Gardner said when announcing the plan earlier this month.

The Sugarloaf plan could create a process that the county could use for the Catoctin Mountains in the northern part of the county, and for South Mountain in the west, she said.

Once the small area plans get up and running, the county will have two or three plans in progress at any given time.

Each will include a briefing book on the area to begin the conversation, with information on the challenges and opportunities an area represents, information on the area’s background, a timetable and broad description of the planning process, a community profile, maps, and other information.

The next area plan will likely be for the Md. 85/Md. 355 corridor, and will get underway in March or April.

Thursday’s meeting was the beginning of a process to collect information and feedback in the development of a plan for the Sugarloaf area.

Bill Jamison, who said he lives just outside the Sugarloaf planning area but owns land in the area, studied maps hung on upright tables in the Urbana cafeteria.

Jamison said he believes the county’s planners are genuinely looking out for the public’s best interests in developing the plan.

Jamison said that while he has no desire to develop his property, which is currently used for agriculture, he wants to maintain his ability to subdivide the property to develop for his family if he chooses to in the future.

Meanwhile, Larry Fortin, of Adamstown, said he was looking for basic information about the Sugarloaf plan, and was curious to see what the county had in mind.

Woody Bailey of Barnesville, in Montgomery County, said he wants to make sure Sugarloaf remains a rural, natural environment.

Bailey said he serves on the Sugarloaf Citizens Advisory Board, and said the area’s connection to Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve makes it a great fit for preservation.

“Once you develop it, you can’t get it back,” he said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.