Lot recording limit is back for hearing

January 16, 1995|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

Members of the Carroll County Planning Commission heard the cry from voters in the November 1994 election.

"It was very clear with the election in November that this county wants growth regulated more than it has been," commission Chairman Dennis P. Bowman said last week.

Commission members, who came close to enacting a subdivision moratorium two months ago, are looking for ways for zTC county services such as roads and schools to keep pace with development.

But the newest proposal on the commission's agenda is expected to affect only larger subdivisions -- 25 lots or more -- and may inadvertently drive residential development into agricultural and conservation zoning areas, contrary to the county's master plan for growth.

The commission is considering changing the 2-month-old policy of limiting the recording of 50 lots in one subdivision in 12 months to 50 lots in 24 months. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing tomorrow afternoon on whether to recommend the change to the county commissioners.

The proposal would have no impact on the unknown number of lots that had been approved and recorded as long as 50 years ago, but never developed. Recording a lot clears the way for the county to issue a building permit.

Mr. Bowman pledged last week that the commission also would look at other ways to manage growth and provide adequate public facilities.

He said the Planning Commission was on the brink of a moratorium on residential construction in South Carroll in November, until county government provided money to continue working on the Oklahoma Road Middle School. The school is scheduled to open in September 1996.

Mr. Bowman said the 50-lots-per-12-months limit was never expected to have much impact on county growth because, "We had comments from large developers that they don't market more than 50 lots [per subdivision] even in a good year."

Carroll County has no subdivision sunset law, which means that developers who recorded lots years ago could get building permits even if the Planning Commission puts new limits on how many lots can be recorded in 1995. County planning and development review staff members said they don't know how many lots have been recorded but not developed.

Limiting the number of building permits that the county issues each year is favored by commission alternate member David T. Duree.

"I look at [limits on] permits as something that is more flexible, perhaps fairer, and would allow us to have developers continue to pay for infrastructure," he said.

Howard County, Maryland's fastest growing county in the 1980s, adopted a building permit allocation plan in 1992 that limits new housing units to an average 2,500 a year and delays new housing construction in areas where schools are overcrowded.

Accurate comparisons of the most effective ways to control development are hard to find.

Scribner Sheafor, chief of local planning assistance for the Maryland Office of State Planning, said most Maryland counties that are trying to control growth set a percentage ceiling in their adequate-facilities laws, then use lot recording limits or building permit limits to implement the laws.

Carroll's adequate public facilities ordinance allows, but does not require, the Planning Commission to delay subdivisions if roads, schools or sewer and water plants are inadequate.

Calvert County's adequate public facilities ordinance stops developers from recording lots in areas where roads or schools are inadequate.

"Since 1988, because of the adequate facilities regulations, we've had many occasions where areas of the county were not available for the recordation of new subdivisions," said Greg Bowen, deputy director of planning in Calvert.

Calvert was the second-fastest growing county in Maryland in the 1980s, according to state planning department statistics. Mr. Bowen said the adequate facilities regulations have worked particularly well in the northern section of the county. The southern section has thousands of lots that were recorded years ago, but not developed, he said, so building has continued in those areas.

The Carroll planning commission's proposal to extend the 50-lot recordation from 12 to 24 months has no acknowledged author. Commission member Robert H. Lennon, a real estate lawyer who drafted the 50 lots per 12 months, made the motion for the 24-month change, but said last week that it wasn't his idea.

"There had been ongoing discussions among the commission," he said. "It wasn't an individual idea."

Mr. Bowman and Mr. Duree also said the idea had no author.

The proposal could increase the pressure to develop lots outside designated growth areas as developers seek more small subdivisions in areas zoned for agricultural and conservation, said Planning Director Edmund "Ned" Cueman.

Planners are also worried that the 50-lot proposal would reduce connections to public water and sewer systems that have been built in anticipation of new users to help pay for them.

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