A prescription for planning Growth consultant writes out a cure for what ails the county.

January 31, 1996

NOW THAT Carroll County officials have heard from Robert Freilich, a nationally recognized growth management expert, they have to decide whether to take his advice. The decision to enact some -- or all -- of his recommendations will be the litmus test of how serious Carroll's commissioners are about controlling the county's run-away residential growth.

For a county that has regularly ignored the consequences of growth during the past three decades, Mr. Freilich's prescriptions may appear to be Draconian. He recommends that the county stop issuing building permits for the next 20 months while it develops a growth management plan. He also said that no further growth should take place unless the necessary infrastructure -- particularly roads and schools -- is in place. He also said that in the next 20 months, the planning commission should spend half its time on long-range planning.

The recommendations are not new. Many of them have been bandied about in past election campaigns and abstract discussions about planning. The lack of will has been the major impediment to putting them into effect. No one has been willing to take harsh measures such as limiting building permits or prohibiting construction until roads and schools are built. As a result, development continued apace.

Now the time may be ripe for adopting Mr. Freilich's recommendations. Many Carroll residents realize that a continuation of past practices will lead to financial problems. For one thing, they now understand that the deferred costs for this unmanaged development are coming due. The schools do not have enough room to handle the influx of students. Roads are filled to capacity during rush hour. The quality of life, many feel, is deteriorating.

They also realize that no matter how costly the impact fees that are supposedly targeted to hit the "newcomers," they will never adequately meet the county's financial needs. Nor would a tenfold increase in development fees.

Mr. Freilich's message was very clear. As long as growth continues unabated, the costs of maintaining county services will inexorably climb and quality of life will decline. If Carroll is to control its destiny, it must temporarily halt new development to give it time to put a comprehensive growth plan in place.

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