Residents convincing in housing debate Planning panel rejects last phase of Carrolltowne

March 31, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

South Carroll residents used public documents to defeat a 254-unit rental housing development proposed for Ridge Road and Kali Drive.

For nearly two hours Thursday, the county Planning Commission heard the residents' arguments about crowded schools, congested roads and overburdened emergency services.

The commission denied the final phase of Carrolltowne, a 20-year-old development in Eldersburg, citing inadequate facilities and a technicality in the original building plans.

In his motion that the proposal be rejected, Robert H. Lennon said Security Development Corp., a Howard County builder, never received the necessary subdivision approvals to establish the 20-acre property as "buildable."

Security also failed to prove the surrounding infrastructure was adequate, he said.

About 200 people gave the commission a standing ovation when members unanimously turned down the controversial project.

David Duree, chairman of the commission, said the arguments about inadequate facilities swayed him most. He called the testimony relevant and well researched.

"This is public participation at its best," he said.

Dan Hughes, founder of Solutions for a Better South Carroll, produced the minutes of a 1975 commission meeting, which said the original approval for the entire Carrolltowne subdivision was contingent on the adequacy of area schools.

"The developer agreed then to that contingency," Mr. Hughes said.

Crowded schools

Carrolltowne Elementary is 133 percent above capacity, with many of its 847 students housed in portable classrooms.

Three other area elementaries also are crowded, and a fifth school is not planned until 1998.

A second middle school for South Carroll will open at capacity in September.

"Services now are not anywhere near adequate, let alone approving more subdivisions," Mr. Hughes said to the audience at Liberty High School. "I don't care if it's six more children or 60, it is time to stop."

In the middle of his speech, a child accidentally pulled the school's fire alarm. It took the Freedom station more than 10 minutes to respond.

Traffic conditions

Carolyn Fairbank of Carroll Highlands Court discussed the dangerous intersection of Ridge and Liberty roads, where there were 11 serious accidents in 1994.

Wayne Schuster of Cinnamon Ridge Court offered traffic studies from the State Highway Administration that predicted the development could add 356 cars to the intersection at peak hours.

Ms. Fairbank quoted the county's own handbook for adequate facilities, which says there should be one officer for every 1,000 -- residents. About 20,000 people live in Eldersburg, an area served by four resident state troopers.

Eldersburg has the county's highest crime rate, said R. Bryan Stoker. His van was stolen recently from the driveway of his Slacks Road home and used to vandalize a store on Liberty Road.

Twenty other residents made arguments against project.

Many feared low-income rental housing would depress property values.

Property value concerns

"In the last stages, we have the most undesirable aspects of the development," said Charles Stanley of Lake Circle Drive. "Our property values will decline."

Others said townhouses would destroy the rural atmosphere.

"I want a house in a rural area, not next to an apartment complex," said Kristin Barth of Brimfield Road.

The developer has no plans to build subsidized housing, and low-income tenants probably could not afford rents between $600 and $800 a month, said County Commissioner Richard T. Yates, who also serves on the Planning Commission.

"I could see their side of it, but we had to deny based on inadequate facilities," Mr. Yates said.

Attorneys for Security Development had no comment.

As they left, one resident yelled, "You can build low-income housing here, but only when our schools are adequate."

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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