Two commissioners target growth

January 13, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll Commissioner Richard T. Yates proposed several ideas yesterday designed to help "the little guy" and improve the quality of life in the county.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown promised that the commissioners would make changes soon to manage residential growth, including raising the impact fee.

The two commissioners, in a "State of the County" address, spoke to about 150 people at a Chamber of Commerce lunch at Martin's Westminster.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell was scheduled to speak, but was fogged in at an airport in the Midwest, where he had been attending a farm convention.

Mr. Yates said Carroll residents have the perception that the county allows "dumping of uncontrolled housing," which is destroying their way of life.

"Enough is enough. There are a lot of little guys like me who are tired of being pushed around," said Mr. Yates, a Republican and retired Department of Defense worker.

One of his ideas contradicts the county's master plan, which has existed about 20 years and attempts to control sprawl by clustering growth around towns in order to preserve farmland.

That strategy has overburdened roads and other infrastructure, Mr. Yates said.

"Let's spread out a little until we get the infrastructure in place. We can always go back to the master plan when we catch up," he said.

Residents should be permitted to use alternative septic systems to build homes on property with soil that can't absorb wastewater from traditional septic systems, he said.

After the speech, Mr. Yates said his plan would not create sprawl and would relieve pressure on the towns.

The resentment about new homes and the political pressure to stop growth comes from town residents, said Mr. Brown, a former Westminster mayor. The commissioners should be as concerned about the quality of life in the towns as they are about preserving farmland, he said.

"We shouldn't lose the one in order to preserve the other," Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Yates opened his speech with a joke that had a punch line that belittled his sexual prowess.

Most people in the audience laughed. But one woman, who did not want to be identified because she has to work with the commissioners, said she was offended by the joke. "It was inappropriate," she said.

Asked about the joke later, Mr. Yates said he did not realize that he had offended anyone.

"All I got were good vibes about it. I didn't know I offended anyone. I didn't mean to. It was hypothetical," he said.

Mr. Yates brought six people from the local business community to help him explain his ideas because he said he did not know much about technical issues. They included a real estate agent, architect, insulation company representative, vocational-technical teacher, home inspector and airport owner.

Hoby Wolf, who owns an airport in Eldersburg, was the only one to speak. He stood in front of the crowd and held up building materials.

Mr. Yates presented five ideas. They were:

* Require developers to pay for infrastructure, such as schools.

* Allow the county to hold builders to higher-quality standards for new homes.

* Allow farm owners to delay paying property taxes if they cannot afford them, until the land is sold. They then could use money from the sale to pay the taxes.

* Create a system of volunteer ombudsmen around the county to answer county government questions for residents so they do not have to drive to the County Office Building in Westminster.

* Open the County Office Building on Saturday mornings.

Mr. Brown, who spoke after Mr. Yates, said the commissioners planned to increase the impact fee, which is charged to builders and used to pay for expanding schools, parks and other facilities to accommodate growth.

"Growth should pay for itself," Mr. Brown said.

The fee is $2,700 in most parts of the county. A consultant has said the county can justify raising it to $5,184.

In the last fiscal year, the impact fee brought in about $3 million. Even if it is doubled, it wouldn't raise enough to build an elementary school.

A new elementary school in Carroll costs about $8 million; a middle school about $14 million; and a high school about $25 million.

Mr. Brown also said the commissioners are working on an adequate-facilities ordinance that would allow them to slow or stop growth when the infrastructure was not adequate.

He said the county will build facilities to handle the growing population.

"It's going to cost money, and it's going to have to be coughed up," Mr. Brown said.

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