Building of homes opposed

January 19, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Allowing more residential development in rural areas to ease growth in Eldersburg, Hampstead and other crowded parts of Carroll County could create more problems than it would solve, county and state planning officials said.

Changing the county master plan -- a 30-year-old zoning map that directs growth around the towns -- would not solve the problem of crowded schools or the need for bypasses, they said.

County Commissioner President Richard T. Yates had suggested last week in his "State of the County" address that the county set aside its master plan because the towns are overburdened.

"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.

Questioned further, the Eldersburg resident said he wasn't advocating "huge developments" in rural areas but that he wanted to open up areas for development to relieve growth pressures on the towns.

The master plan, written by a citizens committee, was adopted in 1964 and has been amended several times, Planning Director Edmund R. Cueman said.

After listening to Mr. Yates' speech, Mr. Cueman said he didn't think the commissioner wanted to cast aside the master plan. He said he understood Mr. Yates as saying that the towns need "relief."

But directing growth to the rural areas could cause problems for agricultural operations, Mr. Cueman said. He added that he understands why many town residents are frustrated by growth.

They moved to Carroll County because it was a rural area, and they want it to stay that way, he said. They're unhappy when they see subdivisions being built on both sides of a street or new shopping centers on every other corner.

"They say to themselves, 'This place is going to be different than what I had in my mind,' " he said. "It's a transition for them."

Nothing is stopping developers from building homes outside the towns, Mr. Cueman said. About 65 percent of the county is zoned for agriculture, which allows one building lot for every 20 acres.

Building in the district would not create sprawl, he said.

"To me, sprawl is a little more massive, like New Jersey where one town runs into another," he said.

Planning Commission Chairman Dennis P. Bowman said he would oppose any attempt to set aside the master plan. Growth is happening fast, and officials are trying to find ways to slow it, but it would not help the county to allow more development in rural areas, he said.

"It goes contrary to everything we've been trying to do," he said. "It would have a catastrophic effect on farming."

Mr. Bowman owns a dairy farm in Union Bridge. Mr. Yates' proposal means farmland would be eaten up by development, and, Mr. Bowman said, it is hard to operate a farm when homes are close by.

Preserving farmland has been a priority for county officials. Carroll leads the state and the nation in acres preserved. The county has preserved about 42,000 acres.

Hampstead Mayor C. Clinton Becker said Mr. Yates' proposal to ease the pressure of growth on the towns would not solve his town's major problems. The Hampstead area needs a new elementary school and a Route 30 bypass, he said.

"As long as you're building, you're going to generate students," he said.

The town does not have problems with the infrastructure it controls, such as water, police and snow removal, Mr. Becker said.

A state planning official said he would be concerned if more growth was allowed in areas zoned for agriculture and conservation.

"It would be unfortunate to open up for sprawl and scattered development," said Scribner H. Sheafor, chief of local planning assistance in the Maryland Office of Planning.

Mr. Yates also proposed that the county allow builders to install alternative septic systems so more lots could become available for development.

County health officials are studying whether they will allow alternative systems, said Charles L. Zeleski, assistant director of environmental health for Carroll.

The Maryland Department of the Environment allows certain alternative sewage disposal systems, such as waterless toilets and sand mounds. With existing lots, the state has an obligation to try to correct a problem if a traditional septic system will not work or has failed, Mr. Zeleski said.

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