Carroll planners seek new limits on housing

May 18, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

In an effort to slow the pace of development in Carroll County, the county Planning Commission proposed yesterday to change the number of houses a developer can build per year in one subdivision.

But some officials say the proposal could instead have the effect of speeding growth.

Current rules allow developers to record 25 lots a quarter, or 100 a year, per subdivision plat. The commission unanimously recommended that the county commissioners change the limit to 50 lots a year, with no limit on how fast those units can be built.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell hailed the change as a way to "keep it country," his campaign slogan in the 1990 election. Mr. Dell said the 50-lot rule would minimize the impact of large subdivisions and reduce "peaks and moratoriums."

He said it was "certainly not the intent" to speed the pace of development.

But Lester P. Surber, the school facilities supervisor who analyzed the impact for the Board of Education, said changing the 25-lots-per-quarter rule "has the potential to accelerate the pace [of housing construction], and the unfortunate thing is that we don't have the ability to accelerate the pace of our capital projects."

Mr. Surber said the school system can now anticipate housing development quarter by quarter. The proposed change would leave school planners without a good measure of how fast houses will be built on each 50 lots recorded, he said.

Planning Commission member Robert H. Lennon, a lawyer specializing in real estate, drafted the 50-lot change endorsed yesterday. He argued that his proposal would "protect the county from 4,300 lots being unleashed," which he said would have been the effect of an earlier proposal to simply scrap the 25-lots-per-quarter rule.

County government statistics show how the change might speed the pace at which new houses come on line.

Most of the impact of the proposed change is expected to fall on subdivisions of more than 100 units. But the county has more small sub divisions than large ones currently going through the planning process.

County records show 60 subdivisions of 25 to 100 lots now under review, but only 18 subdivisions of more than 100 lots. The smaller subdivisions contain a total of 3,123 lots; the larger ones, 2,890 lots.

Planners say that if developers of smaller subdivisions can record 50 lots at a time rather than 25 per quarter, they will be able to build all the houses fast, perhaps in three months, and move on to a new subdivision.

Planners expect the change to slow the pace of construction in subdivisions larger than 100 lots, where developers will be limited to 50 rather than 100 units a year.

Martin K. P. Hill, president of Masonry Contractors Inc. and the county's largest developer, argued that the Planning Commission doesn't need a lot limit because the adequate-facilities law requires calling a halt when subdivisions outstrip essential services such as schools or water and sewer capacity.

The county commissioners have not set a date for voting on the proposal.

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