First step to control growth? Carroll County: Planning commission unlikely to start a long string of denials

September 27, 1995

THE PLANNING commission in Carroll has finally decided to put its foot down. Last week, it denied a developer permission to record 50 lots in a proposed subdivision because the local elementary school there is already too crowded. Were the commission to abide more regularly by the county's adequate facilities ordinance, this rejection would be the first in a string of denials to developers seeking to build in areas with crowded schools and roads. But don't bet on it continuing, at least not yet.

Developers of Westminster Highlands had requested permission from the planning commission to record lots for the first third of its proposed 157-unit subdivision south of Westminster. Even though the commission regularly receives reports of overcrowded schools, it routinely has approved similar requests. The result: Severely overcrowded schools, primarily in South Carroll and Hampstead, and general overcrowding throughout the system.

Seven years ago, the planning commission imposed a countywide moratorium to deal with the explosion of growth that was overwhelming schools, as well as water and sewer service. The construction ban was short-lived, though. After sustained complaints from the homebuilding industry about the damage the action was having on its thousands of employees, the commission lifted the ban.

Developers now will argue that the commission's latest action is arbitrary and capricious. After all, the developers will say, they obtained preliminary approvals for their developments and then invested and borrowed considerable capital to start their projects. They will argue that it is unfair to deny them approval for recording the lots, which comes at the end of the process. As in the past, the commission is likely to be sympathetic to this argument and will probably allow lot recordation to resume.

If the planning commission is sincere about its desire to manage or control growth, it should stop all preliminary subdivision approvals until the county can accommodate the additional population. Building adequate public facilities before allowing new construction is the only rational way to effectively control Carroll's growth.

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