Residents seek voice on planning South Carroll group will watch area targeted for growth

'This will be your plan'

County projections for Freedom District are being updated

February 11, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Because South Carroll is to bear the brunt of the county's growth, its residents are demanding a much larger role in planning it.

The county Planning and Zoning Commission has approved the formation of a community council for South Carroll. Volunteers will work with the commission on growth issues and on a major revision to the 18-year-old Freedom District miniplan, set for completion in early 1997.

"We are enabling you to put together your master plan for the next 20 years," county Planning Director Philip J. Rovang told the slow-growth group, Better Solutions for South Carroll, last week. "This will be your plan. Are you willing to take the steps to make sure it is implemented?"

Nearly one-third of all new construction in the county last year was in the Freedom District, and another 1,900 homes are in the development pipeline in what has become an area of crowded schools and high-traffic roads.

About 24,000 people live in the Freedom District, the planners' term for South Carroll -- , 3,000 in the town of Sykesville and the rest in the unincorporated Eldersburg area -- without a municipal government to represent them.

Sykesville Councilman Michael Burgoyne said he moved from Eldersburg to Sykesville because the town offered a government, a planning commission and its own police force.

With a community council, the county now is giving South Carroll voice and "an excellent opportunity to come up with better solutions," he said.

With maps and aerial photographs at the meeting Thursday, Mr. Rovang gave a brief history of the existing miniplan, which has served as the area's development blueprint since 1978. A color-coded map is "a static piece of paper that doesn't take into consideration all the things that happened in the last 18 years," he said.

"Development is here, but we have a severe deficit in getting infrastructure to where people are. We didn't pay for the infrastructure to keep up with this growth," he said.

Mr. Rovang estimated that 90 percent of South Carroll development did not pay the costs it generated in the community. The county charged no impact fees until about seven years ago.

"We are all dealing with those deficits now," he said. "We can't eliminate them in a year."

The miniplan lacked a funded capital improvements program and ways to pay for the roads and schools that development would bring, he said.

Today, many South Carroll students spend their time in portable classrooms in schools that are at or above capacity. Roads, particularly Route 26, are congested. In addition, the county's industrial base has not kept pace with residential growth.

"We have a good plan, but a policy on how to implement it is missing," said Mr. Rovang. "We know how to grow, but we have no mechanisms to get the job done."

The state has planned improvements to Routes 26 and 32 but has not allocated any money. The intersection of the highways is rated one of the most dangerous in the county, and the surrounding roads are often gridlocked.

"Does anyone think that 26 and 32 can handle more traffic?" asked Dan Hughes, founder of Better Solutions for South Carroll.

The county is planning a traffic engineering study to answer that question, Mr. Rovang said.

Carolyn Fairbank, a group member and a South Carroll resident for 20 years, has counted 100 turnoffs and six traffic lights on Route 26 from Route 32 east to Liberty Reservoir.

"That is 100 chances to get rear-ended," she said. "Originally, the county planned service roads, but that plan is on the shelf."

The county is taking other steps to manage growth. Last week, the commissioners approved the hiring of a planning consultant to begin a growth management program.

Dr. Robert H. Freilich will work closely with county planners for the next several weeks to formulate interim development controls. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown urged the group to look beyond the area and "pay attention to the forces at work throughout the county." He spoke of a bill in the state legislaturethat, if approved, would exempt subdivisions on agricultural land from adequate facilities regulations.

"If the state bill passes, 9,000 potential lots will become the most desirable lots in the county," he said. "Let the legislators know you want all growth scrutinized for adequate facilities."

To preserve its character, the county must retain its farmland, Mr. Brown said.

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