Group seeks halt to growth until plans catch up

April 26, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

The South Carroll Coalition wants to halt development until the county comes to grips with overcrowded schools, inadequate roads and the area's crime rate.

"Development can be good if it's well-planned," said Barry Marsh, president of the Linton Springs Civic Association, at a coalition meeting last week. "We know the area is going to develop, but we have to make sure the other systems are in place, especially roads and schools.

"Carroll County is entering a new age, and the commissioners are not ready," he added.

The coalition, one of several community groups invited to a Carroll Focus session tomorrow, met at the Eldersburg library last week to hear residents' complaints and form a strategy for the focus meeting.

The focus session, sponsored by the Carroll County commissioners, will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the County Office Building in Westminster.

"We have to be more militant and bullish about what is happening down here to get ideas on what residents want to see changed," said Kathleen Horneman, coalition president who organized the meeting last week "

"The coalition was formed to lobby for South Carroll interests," she said. "We are tired of being the dumping grounds."

With its long list of concerns, the coalition may monopolize the focus session.

The commissioners hope the meeting will provide information that will help them develop a new 10-year master plan for South Carroll.

"The commissioners are looking for a quick hit on dollars, and new development is the fastest way," Mr. Marsh said. "Industry would be better for the county in the long term."

Ms. Horneman agreed.

"The commissioners should spend more time soliciting industrial development and less on residential, at least until we catch up," she said.

Member Rebecca Davieau stressed "paced" growth and urged "no new applications for development without adequate facilities."

Coalition members are studying the possibility of incorporating the Eldersburg area, a process that would take about two years and would have to be approved on a referendum.

Eldersburg could become the county's largest municipality with about 16,000 residents.

If the municipality were to be formed, "We would have planning and zoning authority for ourselves," Ms. Horneman said.

Member Jean Nortrup said the county can't afford improvements needed in South Carroll and continues to allow more home building.

"It is a self-perpetuating situation, and we are already so far behind," she said.

"The county never planned for when the state would no longer build our schools," Ms. Horneman said.

The county received planning authority last week for a new middle school to serve South Carroll students.

Construction of the school could begin next year.

Crime also was a topic at the coalition meeting.

Ms. Horneman said the four resident state troopers assigned to Eldersburg are inadequate to police the area.

"South Carroll alone has 43 percent of the county crime, but we don't have a corresponding rate of police," she said.

Most of the crime is "petty and involves juveniles," she said.

She noted that more recreational facilities may help curb the problem.

"Kids need a place here to drop in and hang out," she said. "County-sponsored teen centers would help solve the crime issue."

Coalition members also are concerned about the future of Springfield Hospital Center, which occupies 587 acres near Sykesville.

The center, which houses about 400 patients, is one of three facilities for the mentally ill that state officials are considering closing.

"We need to be really cautious about what happens at that property and grab those empty buildings before the state does," Ms. Horneman said.

Ms. Horneman criticized the county for what she believes is its lack of preparation.

"I hate reacting," she said. "It takes twice as long [to accomplish goals]. Carroll County doesn't ever seem prepared or centralized."

"We are not asking for anything exotic, just the basic things found in every community in the U.S.," Mrs. Nortrup said.

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