Combating Growth with a Fly-Swatter

January 25, 1995

Limiting developers to recording 25 lots a year per subdivision has turned out to be a less-than-promising device to manage Carroll County's burgeoning growth.

At a recent hearing, witnesses told the planning commissioners that the solution focuses on the wrong problem: Instead of controlling growth, the county ought to do a better job of building the schools, roads and utilities needed to keep up with development.

With representatives of Carroll's construction industry dominating the hearing, it was no surprise that the testimony was uniformly hostile to the proposal.

To mollify opponents, planning commission Chairman Dennis P. Bowman pointed out that the restriction would affect but a few of the largest builders and would produce "a very small reduction" in Carroll's development.

A number of witnesses questioned the wisdom of limiting recordation of lots if it won't slow residential construction.

They have a point. The largest homebuilders might find themselves squeezed a bit, but they could easily circumvent the rule by cutting up their large developments into smaller subdivisions so they can comply with the letter of the law.

Restricting the number of lots solves the wrong problem. Even if no more housing were to be built, school overcrowding, clogged roads and inadequate water and sewer facilities would remain. While future growth will exacerbate the current inadequacies, setting limits for future development won't rectify the current shortcomings.

The limitation on recording lots might create another concern: It would discourage developers from building large subdivisions in the designated growth areas and might lead them to build smaller subdivisions outside the growth areas. Further development of agricultural lands would be contrary to the county's master plan and the general public's interests.

Very few people would be complaining if the county had the public amenities to accommodate the needs of the current population. If the county government wants to deal with the growth problem in a forthright fashion, it has to begin a crash program to construct the necessary infrastructure. In the struggle to better manage growth, the lot limit proposal is a fly-swatter.

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