Residents to 'silently protest' bill on lots They can't testify on proposal to ease reviews on farmland

March 28, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

Nimrod Davis, whose Carroll roots go back three centuries, plans to travel to Annapolis today to "silently protest" a jTC controversial measure that would ease review regulations for farmland development.

Mr. Davis, 70, is among several residents who plan to attend a 1: 30 p.m. hearing today before the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee, even though they will not be allowed to testify.

Because the bill was considered and passed by the Senate, legislative rules do not allow anyone but the sponsor or someone he or she designates to testify. The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Larry E. Haines, has agreed to allow one of the County Commissioners to testify in opposition.

"This is our silent protest," said Mr. Davis, a retired vice president of a Baltimore construction company. "I've seen this county overrun with development. It's not only the fact that it's overrun with housing but that we haven't adhered to the adequate facilities law."

Senate Bill 649 would allow farmers to develop as many as six lots without having to prove that public facilities, such roads, schools and other services, were adequate to handle the growth. Mr. Haines, chairman of the county delegation, is the owner of a Westminster real estate business.

The Senate passed the measure two weeks ago, and Mr. Haines said yesterday that he believes the bill will pass the House committee, despite opposition from some Carroll residents and government officials.

"I think the measure is in the best interest of the citizens of the county," he said. "My interest here is protecting smaller property owners and farmers and making sure their individual property rights are not further limited and reduced. I think some people have been misinformed about what the legislation does."

The bill, he said, would reinforce a longtime promise to farmers, who lost 80 percent of their land equity when county zoning regulations were changed to allow one lot to be developed for every 20 acres of farmland instead of one lot per acre.

To appease farmers, the county has expedited approval of farm lots through the development review process over the years. But concern over crowded schools and roads have prompted planners to deny permits in recent months.

Opponents of Mr. Haines' bill contend the measure would undermine county efforts to stem development with a proposed 18-month ban on new subdivisions. The ban is meant to buy time to revise Carroll's master plan.

"I am so angry about this," said Pat Turpin, a Finksburg resident who plans to attend the hearing on the Haines bill.

"I think it's highway robbery. Before I had a house built here, I read in detail the county's growth plan. It was a wonderful plan. Now, we're virtually in the process of destroying it, and this issue is just one of many issues leading us down that path [of destruction]."

The county's delegation office in Annapolis has been deluged with phone calls from residents opposed to and supportive of the bill.

Among the bill's opponents are Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates, who ran for office on growth-control platforms, county planners, state Del. Ellen Willis, the county delegation's only Democrat, and Florence Beck Kurdle, chairwoman of a state planning commission.

Ms. Kurdle decried the potential impact the bill would have on already crowded schools and roads in the county.

A county Planning Department study found about 9,000 potential lots in the agriculture and conservation zone areas of Carroll County. Commissioner Donald I. Dell, a retired farmer, estimated about 4,000 lots.

Mr. Haines said he believes there are about 6,000 lots but only about 4,000 would be available for development because of lack of access to roads.

He noted, too, that not all property owners would develop lots immediately, and those who did would have to go through the planning process.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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