County Officials Resist State Growth Program Proposals Infringe On Local Rights, Critics Say

December 12, 1990|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

A governor's commission developing a statewide growth management program is moving too quickly toward enacting legislation that could infringe upon local land-use planning rights, says Carroll's planning director.

Planning Director Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman said he plans to present testimony urging a slowdown in the process at a public hearing sponsored by the Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region Saturday in Annapolis.

"The time line is so compressed, it doesn't give you an opportunity to react in a real constructive way," said Cueman. "Where's the time to reflect?

"If the state tries to push this through in this (General Assembly) session, there'll probably be 23 counties and 150 municipalities to fight it," he said.

Maryland Office of Planning Director Ronald M. Kreitner said it is important to decide soon on a cohesive growth plan for the state, which lost vast amounts of farmland and forests to development over the last few decades. Previous panels studying the preservation of the Chesapeake Bay have made recommendations similar to the commission's, he said.

Carroll municipal officials expressed mixed opinions about the commission's preliminary recommendations, which are expected to be debated, refined and introduced to the state legislature in the next few months.

Some said the state shouldn't meddle at all in local affairs; others said the county and municipalities already follow the commission's proposed planning guidelines; another welcomed the state's precautionary efforts.

A draft committee of the commission, created in October 1989, recommended local governments classify every acre of land in their jurisdictions in one of four categories: "developed areas" with public services; "growth areas" adjacent to developed areas; "sensitive areas," such as flood plains; and "rural and resource areas," such as farmland and mining regions.

Under the recommendation, the state would require counties and municipalities to submit programs for approval by the end of 1993. The state Office of Planning would monitor implementation of the programs and performance criteria would be developed to guide local governments in planning and zoning powers.

The commission's mission is to curtail sprawled development, coordinate direction of future growth to existing population centers and to protect the Chesapeake Bay and other natural resources.

Carroll's Master Plan, which channels growth around the county's eight municipalities, Eldersburg and Finksburg, already accomplishes those objectives to a large extent, officials say.

The County Commissioners, though unfamiliar with the details, said they are wary of the plans.

"Local subdivisions can handle their own problems better than they can at the state level," said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy Jr. called the proposals "insidious."

The commissioners plan to attend a meeting Monday in Baltimore sponsored by Maryland professional planners' organizations to learn more about how the proposals would affect the county.

Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. was more emphatic in his criticism than the County Commissioners, saying the proposals would lead to "delays" and "chaos." He said he strongly objects to the state having any role in local land-use planning.

"It's baloney," he said. "I view it with much trepidation, if not alarm."

He suggested the state act only in an advisory capacity, citing what he called the "abysmal" record of past state efforts to influence local land issues.

Westminster Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard agreed that state officials should not influence municipal land-use planning.

"The thought that a desk jockey in Baltimore knows better than the people in the municipality raises some concern," he said.

Kreitner, who serves on the commission, emphasized the proposal does not suggest the state would usurp powers granted to local governments.

"The basic decisions of zoning, where growth should occur and the nature of development, would still be made at the local level," he said.

Mount Airy Councilman and Planning and Zoning Commission member Oliver Davis commended the state for taking an active role in land-use planning.

"People are still doing things (detrimental to the bay) that they shouldn't be doing," he said. "It's kind of a partnership. It all has to be done together."

Hampstead Town Manager and Manchester Councilman John A. Riley called the proposal another bureaucratic obstacle in the planning process, but said it wouldn't have much effect in Carroll.

"We already plan that way," he said.Staff writers Darren Allen, Daniel P. Clemens Jr. and Amy Miller contributed to this article.

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