ELDERSBURG — Turning a 360-acre South Carroll farm into a community of 108 luxuryhomes and an 18-hole golf course could generate more than $8.2 million in taxes for Carroll County over the next 20 years.
But development on the Eldersburg farm of Claude R., Edwin E. and Glen I. Rash -- the subject of a four-hour public hearing last week -- would bring with it more traffic, more schoolchildren and the possibility of increased water and soil runoff, opponents say.
The Rashes and Montgomery County-based Woodfield Partnership havebeen trying for three years to find a way to change the zoning of the parcel from agricultural to a combination of R-40,000 and conservation.
Support for the project among the farm's neighbors has been about equal to opposition. Nearly 50 people turned out Thursday morning for the second half of a rezoning hearing in front of the County Commissioners.
Woodfield's Westminster attorney J. Brooks Leahy called seven witnesses -- including two Woodfield partners and Claude Rash -- who presented nearly three hours of testimony supporting development of the $3.5 million golf course and 108 single-family homes thatare expected to cost about $300,000.
"This is a change we can allbe proud of," he said at the close of the meeting.
The commissioners will decide on the rezoning petition within a month, said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge.
The Rashes own more than 435 acres of land in the South Carroll area and pay annual property taxes on that land totaling about $6,053, records at the Carroll office of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation show.
During Thursday's hearing, Claude Rash testified that if his 360-acre farm were developed as he and Woodfield want it to be, more than $409,300 a year in property and other taxes would be paid to the county. He also said that building permit charges and developer impact fees would mean a one-time payment to the county of about $540,000.
At the same time Rash and the developers talked of the project's value to the county, some neighborhood residents talked of a dangerous precedent being set should thefarm be allowed to convert to a residential development.
"I am opposed to the petition," said Lawrence P. Wandel, a Fannie Dorsey Roadresident. "Rezoning it could only end up destroying the master plan.The problems would be major."
Among those problems, said Wandel and about a half-dozen others, would be overtaxed roadways, increased water and soil runoff, and possible contamination from pesticides andherbicides. They also were concerned about overcrowded schools.
"I have nothing against the Rash family or the right of people to develop their property," said Richard T. Yates, an Eldersburg resident and unsuccessful candidate for county commissioner. "But if you rezone this, you'll open up the floodgates to many more of these hearings."
What the commissioners have to decide now is whether to grant the rezoning, not whether the proposed development is acceptable. To grant the rezoning, they will have to change the master plan, which has been in effect since the 1960s and was most recently updated for the area near the Rash farm in 1978.
For rezoning to be approved, the Rashes and Woodfield would have to convince the commissioners that both a mistake in zoning and a change in the character of the neighborhood have occurred.