After 13 years of filings, pleadings, hearings, denials, court appeals, refilings, etc., a five-acre chunk of Liberty Reservoir's "conservation area" -- where little or no development is supposed to occur -- has been rezoned for industrial use in Carroll County. That could bode ill for the entire Baltimore region.
The rezoning has been relentlessly pursued by the landowner, who also owns a heavy equipment and trailer business across Westminster Pike (Route 140) in Finksburg. He ran into strong opposition from Carroll's planning staff, the county Planning and Zoning Commission, its Water Resources Bureau and Health Department, Baltimore's planning department, and the Baltimore Regional Council of Governments. All were concerned about polluting the reservoir, which supplies "city water" for western Baltimore and Baltimore County and Howard County.
Yet the three Carroll County Commissioners granted the rezoning unanimously, reversing earlier rulings and ignoring expert advice. "We felt there was adequate buffer and it would not hurt the reservoir to have a business there," said Commission President Donald I. Dell. "Environmentalists shouldn't have any concerns," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. Commissioner Julia Gouge acknowledged that the decision might, indeed, go against the 1984 Reservoir Watershed Protection Agreement. That document, reaffirmed in 1990, says that Baltimore and Carroll counties agree not to intensify conservation or agriculture uses for land adjoining the three Baltimore City-owned reservoirs within their bounds.