Growth controls assailed

January 18, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Jim Sanborn can't compete with the Rouse Co.

But a Howard County law aimed at controlling growth pits the Highland resident and other small landowners against Columbia's developer and other big developers.

To control growth, the county's 1992 adequate public facilities law limits the number of homes (houses or apartments) created in the county each year. Large developers who seek approval for hundreds of units at a time are quickly devouring the maximum number in some parts of the county, leaving small owners like Mr. Sanborn with no chance of subdividing.

"I've got to get lots to each of four children. One wants to move out next year," Mr. Sanborn said.

But the Rouse Co. -- the developer of Columbia's River Hill village, which is in the same growth-control district as Mr. Sanborn's property in Highland -- has used up the available number of permitted homes.

Tonight the County Council is to hear testimony from Mr. Sanborn and other landowners on a proposal to change the adequate facilities law to exempt people who create only one new lot.

Under the change, only people creating two or more new lots would have to obtain allocations for new homes from the Department of Planning and Zoning.

But the proposal would not allow unbridled growth, one home at a time, said Joseph W. Rutter, Planning and Zoning director.

If the home allocations for a certain area are used up, and a dozen single lots are created, the limit would be reduced over three years, he said.

"It would certainly solve the daughter problem at this time," Mr. Sanborn said of the proposed change.

But Mr. Sanborn's commercial interest in the rest of his land, which totals 53 acres in Highland and 22 acres in Dayton, wouldn't be satisfied by the amendment, which was submitted at the request of County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

As a small developer, Mr. Sanborn might find solace in another item on the council's agenda: the annual allotment of homes allowed to enter the planning process this calendar year.

The number for the western region will increase by about 200 homes, which will give the Rouse Co. the 70 homes it needs to develop in River Hill and leave plenty for Mr. Sanborn and other farm property developers, Mr. Rutter said.

That is, unless the council decides not to approve the countywide total of 2,890 homes. Council members from the county's more populous Ellicott City and southeastern areas -- Darrel Drown, R-2nd, and Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, respectively -- want the county to stick to the 2,500 limit written into the growth-control law.

That limit is a "rolling average," however, and is higher some years, Mr. Rutter said. "The point is, in calendar year 1994, there are only going to be 500 or so new lots that can enter the subdivision process."

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