Growth curb called threat to economy Proposal would ban new developments for 18 months

'Financial disaster'

Foes raise specter of increase in property taxes

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

Opponents of a proposed ordinance that would curb development said last night that it threatens the county's economic life and would lead to a property tax increase.

"This ordinance does not allow anything in or out of the pipeline and will lead to financial disaster," said Greg Dorsey, president of the Carroll County chapter of the Homebuilders Association.

Richard Carlisle, a growth expert who helped write the proposal, said it would offer the county "breathing space, time out to make rational choices."

Mr. Dorsey countered that a "time out could be disastrous."

"Every citizen here relies on growth in one way or another," Mr. Dorsey said. "Budget concerns are bad enough without shutting down the major industry in the county."

About 400 people attended the hearing in Hampstead, at which the Board of County Commissioners and the Planning Commission presided.

The county issued permits for 1,297 homes last year, for a total fiscal benefit of $14.1 million, Mr. Dorsey said. Faced with a $5 million shortfall, county officials must consider raising property taxes for the first time since 1989.

"If new homes produced revenue, this county should be rolling in dough," said Gene Edwards, an Eldersburg resident for 25 years and one of the few who spoke last night in favor of the ordinance.

Mr. Edwards called for an end to development in South Carroll, where nearly one-third of all homes were built last year.

"Our roads are clogged daily," he said. "The pristine land has been raped by development."

Community groups such as Solutions for a Better South Carroll say the county, where the population has grown by more than 20,000 since 1990, cannot survive unless it slows growth and reworks its 30-year-old master plan. Schools and roads have not kept pace with Carroll's population of 142,000.

"Current infrastructure cannot support the rampant development taking place," said Dan Hughes, founder of the South Carroll group. "We have to manage growth."

The county paid Robert H. Freilich, a nationally known planning authority, $35,000 to write the proposed ordinance, which would ban new subdivisions for 18 months and allow the Planning Commission time to devote its energies to the master plan.

"We object to the lack of input into the ordinance and the fact that everything has to go to the County Commissioners," Mr. Dorsey said. "Only what they deem necessary will go forward. This stops development dead in its tracks."

Fifty people spoke at the hearing, most of them opposed to the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance undermines property rights, said Robert Leatherwood, a fifth-generation county farmer.

"If you like the view of farms so much, you can help pay the taxes on my farm," he said. "This is just another liberal government idea for social engineering."

Several speakers said they feared that the ordinance would cause a loss of jobs.

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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