IF CARROLL COUNTY is to have cohesive land use planning, state Sen. Larry Haines' effort to exempt small, rural residential subdivisions from the county's adequate facilities standards is horrendously misguided. This bill has little to do with allowing farmers to develop their land. It would simply carve a loophole in LTC Carroll's planning process large enough to drive a John Deere through.
Mr. Haines contends that the planning commission is now in a position to deny farmers the right to develop their property. Requiring farmers to meet the county's adequate facilities law for roads, schools and other public infrastructure, in effect, denies them the right to develop their land, he says.
Hogwash. Farmers currently do have the right to develop or subdivide their land without having to go through a subdivision review. The county has created a process known as off-conveyance, which allows a farmer to sell off two lots from each deed they own.
These subdivisions are simple and don't require a lengthy review. No one has yet to be refused an off-conveyance because of the adequate facilities law. Mr. Haines' suggestion that the law has impeded the right of farmers to develop is a red herring.
His legislation would devastate the county's professed desire to preserve farmland. Random development of subdivisions in agricultural zones would bring back the days of the 1960s and 1970s when hundreds of houses were plopped down in the middle of farmland without consideration of the impact on agriculture, open space or public infrastructure.
Carroll's current master plan, which calls for development to be focused around existing towns, was created to prevent a reoccurrence of that unrestrained sprawl. Unplanned growth was a mistake then. Suggesting that the same mistake be repeated is an unacceptable way to make public policy.
At present, Carroll's farmers are treated no differently from any owner of property. That is as it should be. Farmers deserve some unique accommodations when it comes to carrying out their livelihood, but they should not be treated as a special class of developer. If they want to build subdivisions of four or more houses, their proposals should receive the same degree of scrutiny that any other landholder receives.