Governor's choice to stop sprawl Sen. Haines' bill: Veto needed to curb farmland loss in Carroll, control residential growth.

April 11, 1996

IF THE GOVERNOR is serious about land-use planning, he will veto the Carroll County farmland subdivision bill that passed the General Assembly this week.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has repeatedly pledged to curb development sprawl and to direct growth into areas of existing communities. A stated priority of his administration is to develop measures to strengthen the state's 1992 Growth Management Act, which still allows local government to make many of these crucial environmental decisions.

Carroll's master land use plan aims to rein in this type of development sprawl and to halt random rural subdivisions. The county requires adequate public facilities such as roads, water and schools for building residential subdivisions. Farmers and owners of agricultural land are no exception. That is how it should be, and how it won't be if this legislation is enacted.

The General Assembly amended Sen. Larry Haines' original bill, reducing from six to four the number of lots that farmers could develop without meeting the adequate facilities criteria. But its intent is still the same: to open up more rural land for subdivision and thwart the planning process. Carroll farmers now have the ability to develop two lots on their land in expedited process. Supporters of the bill argue that the county planning commission has, without public hearing, stopped expediting approval of these excepted rural lots, breaching the county's agreement with farmland owners. Legislation is needed to restore that practice, they say.

This is a conflict that could be resolved without such an ill-considered bill, which never had a public hearing in the county. Legislators don't need to act in a pique, and county officials shouldn't force them to do so. Too much is at stake in planning for Carroll County's sensible development to allow inter-governmental squabbling to complicate the matter.

The major point, however, is that this measure would create thousands of exempted lots throughout the county, which is already far behind in providing the kinds of facilities needed to support such unbridled growth.

In the midst of overhauling its long-term land use plan, Carroll County does not need this legislative loophole that will ensure further loss of its valuable farmland. Mr. Glendening, plow under this bad bill.

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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