Commissioners stall Mount Airy plans

August 19, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

A development proposal favored by Mount Airy officials has been squelched by the county commissioners. But the town hopes to bring the county around to its view at a meeting this month.

A developer's plan to build up to 200 single-family houses on 137 acres of farmland northwest of Mount Airy was greeted with enthusiasm three months ago by town officials.

The town's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended annexing the land owned by Leo and Elizabeth Kraft. The county planning office supported the proposal and recommended that the county commissioners grant a waiver allowing the developer, Magna Holdings of Baltimore, to build at a higher density than the one unit per acre for which it is zoned now.

This month, in a move that surprised Mount Airy officials and the county planning staff, the commissioners refused to grant the waiver. They said allowing development at the higher density would strain public services in the area.

A review by county and state agencies had found that schools, roads and public safety services could handle the proposed development.

"I thought it was an unfair decision," said Mount Airy Town Council President Delaine Hobbs.

"It's best to maintain development within the municipalities rather than create a new town in South Carroll that will increase the tax burden on the rest of Carroll County," Mr. Hobbs said.

Although the commissioners' decision doesn't preclude Mount Airy's annexation of the property, it means the property must remain under its current county zoning for five years.

The waiver would have allowed development of two to three houses per acre under town zoning. Refusal of the waiver raises the question whether the developer will want to continue with the project.

"With the way projects are financed today, it's highly unlikely any developer would get involved in an annexation if they were not able to develop soon after," said Mount Airy town planner Teresa Bamberger.

Elmer C. Lippy said he and his fellow county commissioners made their decision based on the concerns of South Carroll residents.

"I think the public is on our side," Mr. Lippy said. "They [Mount Airy officials] haven't done their homework on really gauging the resistance to increased density in South Carroll."

To make his point, Mr. Lippy cited the opposition of Linton Springs residents to the rezoning of the Belt farm near Sykesville to allow for higher-density development.

"Those residents are up in arms," he said.

At a public hearing this month on the Kraft annexation, only one person expressed opposition.

Theodor Stathis, of the 600 block of Buffalo Road, objected to the proposed realignment of Buffalo Road, saying it would reduce the value of his property.

The commissioners and Mount Airy officials plan to meet this month to discuss the annexation issue.

"It's not like we're tearing their [recommendation] up and throwing it in their faces," Mr. Lippy said. "If I get enough information at the meeting that sways me or destroys my previous logic, I may change my mind."

Sandy Baber, a county planner, said the commissioners' decision surprised her because the Kraft property is within a projected growth area identified in the 1982 county master plan. Also, the proposed development falls within the future annexation area in Mount Airy's 1994 master plan.

Ms. Baber said the county planning office supports development around municipalities.

In their review of the Kraft property annexation, county planners concurred with Mount Airy officials in requiring a traffic study of the nearby Watersville Road, Main Street and Route 27 intersections.

Planners determined that an increase in housing density wouldn't lead to school crowding. Local schools and a planned high school and middle school would meet the needs of area students, they said.

Although any new development brings concerns about public services for the incoming residents, Ms. Bamberger said, the proposed Kraft property development offers important benefits to the town.

These include a well on the property, the extension of Watersville Road and new parks and ball fields, to be provided by the developer.

Initial testing of the well indicates a yield of 351,000 gallons a day; demand from the new development is expected to be 50,000 gallons a day, Ms. Bamberger said.

The extension of Watersville Road to Buffalo Road would help alleviate traffic congestion on Main Street. The extension was identified as a priority road project in Mount Airy's 1994 master plan.

Ms. Bamberger said she hopes the town and the commissioners can have a more "open dialogue" on issues in the future.

Mr. Lippy said the commissioners may have been a "little abrupt" in notifying Mount Airy of their decision.

"But we did send a letter explaining our position," he said.

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