Mayors want growth tailored to their towns Builders fear broad county effort would hinder development

February 16, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

County mayors expressed support for growth management planning that would be tailored to their individual towns at a meeting yesterday of the Carroll County Chapter of the Homebuilders Association.

The homebuilders, fa Builders are concerned because the county has hired a prominent growth expert to help rework Carroll's 30-year-old master plan. Dr. Robert H. Freilich of Kansas City, Mo., is helping to formulate interim growth controls, which could be in effect for 20 months. His fee is $35,000.

A leading builder, expressing reservation on the county's action, said that "Dr. Freilich's expertise is in the development of ordinances, not in the development of homes."

"He is not the salvation," said Martin K. P. Hill, owner of Masonry Contractors.

Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman disagreed, saying, "We need somebody with vision who has done this kind of planning before to guide us."

Carroll's mayors stressed that the County Commissioners must take each town into consideration before they implement a growth plan. While South Carroll and Hampstead feel the brunt of uncontrolled growth, other areas of the county are managing well, they said.

"The towns are like a family with eight children all at different stages in development and personality," said Neil Ridgely, Hampstead town manager.

The gathering made the mayors and the industry aware of each side's thinking, Mr. Hill said.

"I didn't hear any strong appeal from the mayors for what the county is saying," he said. "I'm hearing 'stop and shut the door' from the commissioners, but not from the mayors. The commissioners want to halt growth until a plan is in place."

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell urged cooperation.

"Dr. Freilich didn't say one thing that hasn't been talked about for 20 years," Mr. Dell said. "He can get us going in the right direction. We need to bring growth into balance to what the county can afford as far as infrastructure. We have to deal with people who live here and pay taxes. We can't raise taxes to pay for new growth."

Why tamper with a plan that is accomplishing its goal of directing growth around the eight municipalities? asked Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan.

"We oppose any broad-brush approach across the county and any significant changes in the master plan," he said. "The growth problem is not spread over the whole county."

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said he opposes any plan that detracts from a town's authority. Local government makes local decisions and represents the people in the overall picture, he said.

New Windsor growth spurt

New Windsor is having its first growth spurt in decades and adding new homes according to its plan. Its geographic boundaries create growth controls, he said.

"Are we going to be penalized because we had the foresight to plan, and the county didn't?" Mayor Gullo asked. "To turn the spigot off now would put a burden on our citizens and interrupt our plans. We must make sure our needs are met while we are meeting the county needs."

Mr. Herman, the Sykesville mayor, called for more economic development to improve roads and schools.

"We need economic development to offset the tax burden on homeowners," Mr. Herman said. "We can work hand in hand with developers to finance the infrastructure."

Greg Dorsey, president of the homebuilders' chapter, said South Carroll, with its proximity to Interstate 70 and planned improvements to Route 32, is the perfect site for economic development.

For now the improvements -- widening Route 32 to four lanes -- will end at Interstate 70 in Howard County, Mr. Herman said.

"They should be bringing the four lanes here," Mr. Herman said. "Obviously, there is a lot of development around Routes 26 and 32. We should be the squeaky wheel and get heard."

The towns would stagnate without growth, Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson said.

"If you bring more people, business will follow," he said. "Business won't come to areas where growth has stopped."

Union Bridge, with "no growth ever," is finally on the threshold of its first development, Mayor Perry Jones said. Without it, "We are going to be a ghost town," he said. "We must grow so we can

survive."

L Only Hampstead voiced approval for stronger growth controls.

"Hampstead needs to take a breather and handle growth differently," said Mr. Ridgely, the town manager. "We are hoping the county will hold back growth for those who need to recoup."

The possibility of controls has developers applying for building permits in record numbers, said Mike Maring, deputy code official. In the week after Dr. Freilich's visit, the county processed 144 new permit applications compared to 63 for all of January 1995.

"The crush is still on," Mr. Maring said. "We are a lot above average."

Industry seeks voice

The building industry is asking for a voice in the process. Larry Macks, owner of Macks Homes, said the industry has not been part of the discussion for solutions.

"It's fine to craft a solution, but if in the end the result is the building industry can't survive, we haven't done anybody any good," Mr. Macks said.

"A growth management policy that excludes the industry that provides developed land and homes, has no point. We feel like outsiders. It is like not involving doctors in health care."

Because most chapter members are local residents, controls will have a ripple effect on county industries, Mr. Dorsey, president of the homebuilders' chapter, said.

"If things close down, so do local people," he said. "When it picks up, it won't be local. It is important to keep the industry healthy."

Mr. Macks offered expertise and one additional reason to use the building industry.

C7 "We won't charge as much as Dr. Freilich," he said.

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