How to manage growth Limiting building permits would be but half a solution.

November 13, 1995

MANAGING CARROLL'S explosive residential growth is the county government's most pressing task, but developing a workable strategy has been elusive. The vast majority -- 96 percent -- of attendees at a recent day-long conference on the topic favored an ordinance to manage future development. But there was no agreement on how to implement it.

In the past, Carroll County has used a limit on recordation of building lots as a means to regulate growth. At one time, developers could record up to 25 lots per quarter for each subdivision they were building. The measure proved unsuccessful in abating growth. Planners and commissioners proposed a revision that would have reduced the number of lots that could be recorded to 75 a year. The county commissioners have had the draft ordinance pending before them for months and have not taken action.

The commissioners are also exploring the possibility of limiting the number of building permits as an alternative way to slow growth. If building permits are to be rationed, the commissioners have to sort out a number of issues.

Will the permits be capped according to geographic area? Will the rationing system differentiate between large developers and farmers who want to develop one or two houses on their land? Will permits be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis or will they be distributed by a drawing?

Devising answers to these questions will test the sincerity of the county's desire to control growth. Certain segments of the population -- primarily the home-building industry -- will be hurt. Farmers and other landowners who planned to sell off lots to finance their retirements could also be adversely affected.

If limiting building permits is the method adopted to manage growth, it should be a temporary device that allows the county to build sufficient infrastructure. Imposing the limitation won't serve any purpose unless the commissioners create a rational financing and construction plan that will accommodate the county's inevitable growth. Without building sufficient schools, roads and utilities, limiting building permits will fail as a tool to manage growth and could inflict severe damage to the county's economy.

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