Municipal Referendums on Growth

April 20, 1995

In the seven Carroll County towns holding local elections next month -- Hampstead, Manchester, New Windsor, Sykesville, Taneytown, Union Bridge and Westminster -- controlling growth will be a key issue. Coping with rapid residential development has deeply divided many of these town governments.

In Hampstead, for example, a slate has emerged that promises to oppose the alleged practice of rubber-stamping subdivision proposals. Tired of being on the losing side in fights over development approvals, mayoral candidate Christopher Nevin has teamed up with council candidates Lawrence Hentz and Stephen Holland to form an anti-growth ticket that promises to slow the town's rapid residential build-up.

Incumbent town officials such as councilman Arthur H. Moler dismiss complaints that the current administration is pro-developer. It is not within the town's power to halt development because of crowded schools or inadequate roads, Mr. Moler says. Mayor C. Clinton Becker, who is up for re-election, defends past actions, saying the town government is striking a balance between preserving Hampstead's character and allowing growth.

In Manchester, meanwhile, the municipal campaign is not as sharply focused. Yet the adequacy of the town's water supply seems to have emerged as the major issue, which indirectly also crystallizes a debate on future development. The two candidates for mayor -- former Manchester mayor and Carroll County commissioner Elmer C. Lippy and former councilman John A. Riley -- both mention water as a major issue. Since the town uses springs for half of its water supply, clearing land for new houses increases surface contamination and reduces the amount of clean drinking water. Three council candidates, Christopher D'Amario, J. Jeffrey Singer and A. Geoffrey Rice, also prominently mention water in their campaigns.

Even though growth may be a preoccupation in these elections, most Carroll towns have few legislative tools to deal effectively with the explosion of residences just beyond their borders. The county commissioners are the elected officials who control the pace of the county's growth. Town voters should remember not to neglect issues that their municipal representatives do control, such as police protection and trash collection.

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