Limiting Lots Makes Sense

May 20, 1994

In a county where new home construction is often greeted with dismay, the Planning Department's proposal to limit developers to recording 50 lots a year in one subdivision deserves serious consideration. The proposal will not bring growth to a screeching halt, as some county residents hope. But this policy, if put into effect, might prevent some of the runaway growth that has damaged other metropolitan jurisdictions.

Under current regulations, developers can record up to 25 lots per quarter -- or 100 a year -- for each subdivision. This proposal would halve that number but developers would have the discretion to build as fast or as slow as they wish, giving them much more latitude to respond to market conditions.

Will this limitation solve the problem of overcrowded schools? Probably not. As long as Carroll continues to grow at a rapid rate, the increase in the school-age population will outstrip the county's ability to build new schools.

At present, the county is playing catch-up. Schools in Carroll's growth areas are overcrowded and will remain so. Students are pouring into the public education system faster than the classroomscan be built. In addition, the approval, design, engineering and construction process for schools is much longer than it is for new subdivisions. In the near term, the only way to strike a balance between school and home construction is to impose a moratorium on homebuilding -- an unacceptable alternative.

If this limitation is to work, the county regulators must keep a sharp eye on subdivision approvals. At the moment, the subdivisions with less than 100 lots that are now under county review will generate 3,123 homes while those developments with 100 lots or more will generate 2,890 homes. If large numbers of small subdivisions are approved, the intended impact of the 50-lot-a-year restriction will be negated.

Even with its drawbacks, this effort to moderate the county's growth makes sense. Carroll's population will continue to increase, and a predictable rate of growth makes planning the necessary public infrastructure -- roads, schools, libraries and FTC parks -- easier. But more important, a steady and manageable growth rate ensures that Carroll's new and current residents will continue to enjoy a high quality of life.

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