Mount Airy weighs transfer development rights

March 16, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

County planners and Planning Commission members took the issue of transfer development rights to Mount Airy residents Monday night, as part of the evolution of the Southwest Carroll Plan.

The proposal being studied would involve the transfer of development rights from agricultural land to areas surrounding the county's eight towns. The transfer is a mechanism to preserve agricultural acreage by selling the development rights. The rights are purchased by developers. Once this occurs, a developer can "move" the rights to another property designated for residential development.

Planners say the intent behind such a proposal is to cluster development around the county's towns to avoid suburban sprawl and preserve the county's working farms.

"If we can encourage the growth around the towns, then we can manage it a little bit better," said county Planning Commission member Zeno Fisher.

But Mount Airy council President Delaine Hobbs said it's too late to think about managing growth.

"Sprawl has already happened from Mount Airy to Westminster," Mr. Hobbs said.

The Southwest Carroll Plan is being developed to guide growth during the next several years in a 50-square-mile region bounded by routes 97 and 26 and the Howard and Frederick borders.

According to research by county planners, Carroll's remaining agricultural land contains the equivalent of 9,752 residential lots, said Marlene Conaway, the county's assistant planning director.

Planners have estimated that development rights should be transferred from 5,000 of those lots to meet agricultural preservation goals.

To keep agribusiness alive in the county, planners have set a goal of preserving 100,000 acres of farmland, Ms. Conaway said.

"If we lose our agribusiness, those farms are going to be used for one thing: development," Mr. Fisher said.

Despite that prospect, Mount Airy residents expressed doubts about whether the area could handle much more major development.

"We just signed a Mount Airy Master Plan, and we reached a very fine line of trying to get as much development in as possible without overloading services," said Frederick Goundry, chairman of Mount Airy's Planning and Zoning Commission.

Town residents also raised concerns about the limitations of water and sewer capacity and traffic congestion on local roads.

"I don't see how the roads can be improved enough to take up the slack," said Mount Airy Councilman David Pyatt.

At the suggestion of Mr. Hobbs, Mount Airy's Planning and Zoning Commission will study the concept of transfer development rights and report back to the county.

County planners are in the process of visiting the county's eight towns to discuss transfer development rights. County Planning Director Ned Cueman said he hopes to have a report on the issue for county commissioners by January.

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