Development rising, but still below growth ceiling

January 26, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Development picked up significantly last year, but not enough to put Howard's growth-control laws to the test, says a report issued by county planners.

The report was given to County Council members Monday night as part of the annual process of updating growth limits set by the 1992 adequate public facilities laws.

Planners say there were 8,741 potential houses and apartments going through the subdivision process as of Sept. 30, 1993 -- the end of the reporting year -- compared with 4,217 units that were in the development pipeline in 1992.

While development activity, such as surveying and obtaining plan approval, has picked up, actual building is still much slower than it was in the late 1980s, said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., county planning and zoning director.

"The pace of actual building activity is well below the General Plan target on the residential end, which was expected," he said.

The 1990 General Plan, the county's growth blueprint through 2010, set a limit of 2,500 units per year on residential development. The growth law adopted that as a "rolling average" that was to be higher in the earlier years and lower later on.

Only 1,791 units received county use-and-occupancy permits in the year ending Sept. 30, 1993, compared with 2,188 issued the previous year, the report shows.

In the southeastern area of the county, which normally sees heavy development, activity had slowed considerably.

"The good news is obviously [that] growth has slowed down in the southeastern part of the county," said Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, who represents the area. "We continue to see the crowding in schools in the area, so it may give construction on schools a chance to catch up."

While the news may have been encouraging countywide, Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, is worried that his area is getting more than its share of development.

The report showed that half of the potential houses and apartments approved in the year ending Sept. 30, 1993, were in the northeastern area, which includes southern Ellicott City and Elkridge.

"I don't want to get back to those late '80s days when we were building 4,000 units a year," Mr. Drown said.

To prevent that, Mr. Drown has proposed limiting the number of units entering the development process to 2,740, the same number allowed last year, instead of the 3,000 proposed by County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

The council is scheduled to vote Feb. 7 on the proposed growth-control adjustments.

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