Fast growth worries Carroll residents

September 25, 1994|By Capital News Service

Carlin Reynolds doesn't expect to own his 29-acre Westminster-area cattle farm much longer. In fact, he says his cattle produced their last offspring in April and his John Deere tractor is for sale.

Mr. Reynolds, 71, like some other farmers in Carroll County, is preparing to sell his land to housing developers. Other farmers say they will lose their land to highway expansions or proposed bypasses.

"Either builders want your land for more houses or the county will chop it up to make ways to reroute traffic," Mr. Reynolds said. "It's a better investment for farmers to sell out and live high on the interest they get than try to keep their farms alive. Agriculture just can't compete with growth and development."

Mr. Reynolds was one of 42 residents in Carroll County informally interviewed recently on election-year concerns. Thirty-two said they worried about how the county would deal with its growth, as it changes from rural, small towns to Baltimore bedroom communities. Others said they feared growth would cause overcrowding in schools and a rise in crime.

"I don't want to see all the farmland eaten up by new developers nor the country atmosphere of the county change, but as more people move out here from the cities, the crime and other problems are sure to follow," said Tom Eshelman, an advertising salesman from Westminster. "I don't want to be a little bumpkin town, but then again I don't want our county to be another Baltimore."

Others agreed change could bring problems.

"The slow-paced lifestyle, the friendly atmosphere and low crime rates are things that immediately attract people out here," said -- Marta Williams, 37, who moved from Baltimore to Westminster 10 years ago. "Sure, it's a farther drive to jobs in the city, but it's worth it for most people."

Carroll County grew from 93,816 people in 1980 to 134,214 in 1992, according to Bureau of the Census records and county Department of Planning estimates.

Westminster is the fastest-growing election district in the county, said Jeanne Joiner, a planner in the Carroll County Department of Planning. Census Bureau records show the population in the Westminster area grew by about 40 percent between 1980 and 1990, from 19,116 people to 26,618.

The population increase has caused 10-mile traffic backups in rush-hours on Route 140, which runs through Westminster, and on Route 30 in Hampstead, residents and county planners said.

"It is a mess around 7 a.m. when you're out on Route 140 trying to get somewhere because it's nothing but bumper-to-bumper cars," said Grady Dillow, a carpet salesman from Manchester.

"All you have to look at is a bunch of million-dollar homes and you think, 'How are the roads, the fire stations and the people in this little country town of Westminster going to handle this kind of growth?' " he said.

State highway officials are reviewing several proposals to reroute traffic along Route 140 by building a six- to 10-mile bypass or upgrading the existing road, said regional planner Steven McHenry. A plan will be selected in early 1995, a State Highway Administration spokesman said.

Mr. Dillow, 54, along with many lifelong Carroll County residents, has driven along Route 140 for more than 20 years. Reese firefighters say Route 140 is 20 times busier now than it was five years ago.

"Nobody can stop growth, and I don't think most people are asking that, but we don't have the resources, like schools or roads right now, to deal with this influx of people," said George Klinger, 50, an electrical engineer.

A plan to construct bypasses around Hampstead and Manchester is waiting for construction money, Mr. McHenry said.

Hampstead is the second fastest-growing district in the county, Ms. Joiner said. The Hampstead area grew by 31 percent between 1980 and 1990, from 7,857 people to 10,300.

While many of the Carroll County residents interviewed agreed that Hampstead and Westminster bypasses are needed, they said they are fearful that the better transportation routes will attract even more people and more problems.

"Our schools out here are becoming overpopulated because of overbuilding," said Joy Easham of Mount Airy, a 59-year-old grandmother of two girls.

Eric Ganjon, 56, a farm machinery repairman from Winfield, said people move to the county "because they think it's cute, it's country and it's away from their hustle and bustle neighborhoods."

But, he said, "Soon we're going to turn into another suburb county with expensive homes, high crime and lots of roadways leading to strip malls."

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