Planners gird for proposal Southwest county is due master plan

July 04, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Carroll's planning commission is preparing to take up a master plan for the southwestern area of the county, a plan that includes such controversial ideas as building a village in what is now a semirural area.

In preparation for its work, the commission spent Friday touring the 50 square miles covered by the plan, which was presented last week by a citizens committee that has been drafting the proposals since September 1990.

The master plan area is bounded by routes 97 and 26, and the Frederick and Carroll County borders. The proposal does not include the Mount Airy community planning area, which has its own master plan.

Planning commission members expect to work on the proposal again July 13 and to present it to the commissioners July 20.

"This plan is an outgrowth of the strategic plan on agriculture we did three or four years ago," said K. Marlene Conaway, the county's assistant planning director.

She said that southwest Carroll was once filled with dairy and livestock farms. But development pressures have forced farmers turn to raising horses and other operations that require less acreage.

"A lot of conflicts were identified between agricultural and residential communities," Ms. Conaway said.

As a result, the county decided it needed a plan for the area that will allow these new, smaller farms to survive as more homes are built.

Commission members discussed two residential zoning options Friday. One option, known as Plan A, includes allowing developers to build a village in return for preserving farmland elsewhere in the county.

Planners envision a 1,100-acre village modeled after Carroll's traditional towns in the area of Route 97 and Eden Mill Road. The village would have 2,640 homes clustered on three-quarters of the property, with the rest left as open space.

Developers would be allowed to build at this density only after purchasing development rights from county farms elsewhere, but planners hope that they will look first to preserve land in southwest Carroll. The resulting village would be about the size of Union Bridge and have a density similar to Westminster's Main Street-Green Street area, said Gregg Horner, a county planner.

That proposal has drawn mixed reactions from residents, some of whom have said that making people live together in villages amounts to social engineering. Others felt that controlled development would make county services more efficient.

Plan A also includes a proposal to replace the current agricultural zoning in southwest Carroll with a rural-residential zone.

The current agricultural zone allows one home for every 20 acres. Developers are permitted to cluster homes on one-acre lots only if they deed the rest of the property to the county or a homeowners association as open space.

A rural residential zone would be the same, except that it would allow developers to combine large lots of 25 acres with one-acre lots on a parcel. The idea is to allow a small farm to exist beside a subdivision.

But once a 25-acre lot is established as part of a subdivision, it could not be subdivided a second time. And the zoning wouldn't allow lots between 1 acre and 25 acres.

Under the second plan, known as Plan B, the village would be dropped and the agricultural zoning would be replaced by a rural-residential category that provides even more flexibility. Developers would have the same options provided by Plan A, but they also would be allowed to buy development rights from other areas of the county and use them to build twice as many houses as would normally be allowed on a property in southwestern Carroll.

"We're not advocating Plan B," said Edmund R. "Ned" Cueman, Carroll's director of planning. "This is just an alternative to look at if Plan A is not going to fly."

Some commission members said they were concerned that creating a village would conflict with the current master plan.

"This departs from the master plan directive to direct development into areas around the towns," said commission member David Duree. "I think we need more countywide debate on this."

But county planners said they felt that the proposed village would be merely an extension of the Freedom community planning area east of Route 97.

Ms. Conaway said that in the past planners have added similar developments to master plans for other areas. "That expansion doesn't mean that we're going against what we've been doing," she said.

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