Two South Carroll farmers want to plant luxury homes and a golf course on their 360-acre Eldersburg property.
The project to sow $300,000 homes and an 18-hole golf course where crops used to grow on the Eden Mill Road parcel once again will be presented to County Commissioners, as a hearing on the zoning changes needed for the development continues tomorrow.
Shifting the property from agricultural to a combination of residential-40,000 and conservation zoning would pave the way for the upscale housing development planned on the farm owned by Claude R. and Glen I. Rash. Should the golf course plan fail, it also could open other housing options -- such as a single-family home development, a townhouse project or a mixed-use housing plant.
In Carroll County -- and all of Maryland -- zoning changes cannot be made based on proposed developments. Instead, zoning changes must be made based on currentand future land use on neighboring parcels. Since a guarantee for a golf course and housing development cannot be made by the county, some of the Rashes' neighbors are concerned.
More than 80 people attended a three-hour public hearing on the rezoning case two weeks ago; 30 people signed up to testify in favor of the plan; 35 opposed the housing development.
The hearing continues at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow inRoom 07 of the County Office Building on North Center Street in Westminster.
As the commissioners consider the rezoning petition -- a request not favored by the County Planning Commission, the county planning staff or the state Office of Planning -- they are not supposed to look at only the proposed luxury housing community, according to state and local planning officials.
"That would be contract zoning,and that's illegal," said Solveig L. Smith, the county's zoning administrator. "You can't agree to rezone something because of what a developer wants to put on it."
The Rashes' petition says that Montgomery County-based Woodfield Partnership plans to purchase the property from them and build 108 homes that surround a 160-acre golf course.
No purchase or development price has been disclosed. The homes --on one-to three-acre lots -- would cost between $300,000 and $375,000.
If the rezoning request is denied, the 360-acre property would be limited to 18 homes. Should the commissioners convert the tract toR-40,000 and conservation, the maximum number would increase to 141 homes.
Agricultural zoning allows one home per 20 acres; R-40,000 allows one home per acre and conservation zoning permits one home perthree acres.
The Rash proposal is the latest in a county that faced tremendous growth during the past decade. As developers bought up more of Carroll County's relatively inexpensive farmland, the county's ability to handle that growth has been strained.
While some planning officials admit that contract zoning might be a good way of ensuring controlled growth that is compatible with the wishes of neighbors, officials and others, it is an option that is not expected to everbecome available.
"The approach we take is to look at what the ultimate project on a piece of property could be," said Scott Fisher, acomprehensive planner with the county. "We look at what a worst-casescenario is, and make our recommendations from there."
They also look at the county's master plan. For the Rash farm -- owned by the family since 1928 and at one time 3,000 acres in size -- that plan calls for a continuation of agricultural zoning.
State law requires that zoning be compatible with the master plan; the only way to changethe zoning on the Rash farm would be to amend the master plan, something Fisher and others say should be done only rarely.
"As a general rule, you don't want to change the plan that often," he said.