Manchester considers time limits on approval for developments

February 02, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

The Manchester Planning and Zoning Commission is considering whether to place time limits on its approvals of developments, to reduce the number of developments that have been approved but languish, unbuilt, for months or years.

If time limits were enacted, commission approvals would expire after a set period, perhaps 12 months or 18 months.

Miriam DePalmer, Manchester's assistant zoning administrator, suggested the limits to the commission.

The town already places a one-year limit on approvals of site plans

for commercial developments, she said.

Placing an expiration date on commission approvals of all developments would make long-range planning easier for the town, she said, and time limits would also make the zoning process fairer.

Fairness is an issue because once a development is approved by the commission, it may be "grandfathered," or exempted from new ordinances.

Ms. DePalmer said one residential development in Manchester, Park Ridge Estates, had its final plan approved 10 years ago.

One section of the development was built; nothing has been constructed yet on the second section of 21 buildable lots.

But because the development received approval so long ago, it has been grandfathered under several new ordinances, she said.

When the second section is built, it will not have to comply with the county forestry law or the town's landscaping ordinance. It will also not have to supply its own drinking water, as new developments must.

"We have to make sure we have water for them," Ms. DePalmer said.

Time limits on planning commission approvals would make it easier for town planners to estimate the number of homes that would be built in future months, she said.

That, in turn, would make it easier to anticipate revenues from taxes and service charges, as well as future expenses for items such as road maintenance and water and sewer capacity.

"I think it's a great idea," Manchester Town Manager Terry Short said. "It lets us plan for a number of things."

Ms. DePalmer said she can now only guess at the number of homes that will be built in coming years. She estimated that, within the next five years, Manchester will grow by 500 houses.

The town has about 1,000 housing units.

Two large developments are on hold in Manchester.

Blevin's Claim, which has preliminary approval, will add 164 housing units to the town when it is built. Manchester Farms sections 4, 5 and 6, which have concept approval, will add 303 homes.

Another proposed development, Black Farm, may encompass more than 300 homes.

But the land for that development is outside town limits, and the developer has not yet petitioned the town for annexation.

Some of the developments have also been grandfathered under new laws.

For example, Ms. DePalmer said, Blevin's Claim does not have to comply with the county forestry law, because it had received preliminary approval before the forestry law went into effect.

Scott Fischer, liaison between the town of Manchester and the Carroll County planning office, said the problem of approved developments in limbo is shared by other jurisdictions, which deal with it in different ways.

Some towns opt for time limits, he said. Carroll County doesn't place time limits on approvals for subdivisions, but it does place them on approvals for site plans, which are required for business developments, apartments and condominiums.

He said any limits should be reasonable, so as to not place an "undue burden" on developers. A provision for extensions under certain circumstances would allow the town greater flexibility, he said.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Benjamin Perricone has asked commission members to consider time limits.

Ms. DePalmer said the commission could enact limits by simply adopting them as part of its operating procedure.

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