Industries fight plan to ban growth Realtors, bankers try to protect builders

April 14, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

In the last two months, as the County Commissioners held public meetings and considered various drafts of a proposed 18-month development ban, Citizens for Managed Growth has gathered members and hired a public relations company and attorney.

The Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Westminster Development Corp., Realtors, bankers and other members who paid nearly $1,500 to advertise their opposition in a full-page local newspaper last week say they have joined forces to save the building industry from the proposed Interim Development Control Ordinance (IDCO).

Richard L. Hull, president of Carroll Land Services, helped start the coalition to protect about 5,000 development industry jobs, he said.

"An entire industry is at stake," he said. "I am trying to save our industry."

The development control ordinance would impose a temporary ban on new subdivisions to give the county time to rework its master plan, which was created in 1965.

But even before it has been enacted, the proposal is casting a shadow on the industry, business leaders say.

"Usually this time of year, we have a backlog of four weeks and six survey crews working six days a week," said Dennis Meckley, a surveyor. "But now, people are afraid to get a job started."

Mr. Meckley said he barely has enough work to keep four crews busy.

The "stop growth while we study" plan is no solution, said Mr. Hull. It would eliminate jobs and increase property taxes.

"Back when the county didn't connect its finances to our productivity, they could forget about builders," said Mr. Hull. "Now they get as much as $13,000 per house in some kind of fee."

In 1995, 1,434 new homes generated more than $16.49 million in income for the county. This year, as the commissioners try to cope with a $5 million shortfall, they can ill afford to shut down the building industry, Mr. Hull said.

"There is no health, safety or welfare crisis that prompts this ban," he said. "What we need is intelligent, long-range planning that doesn't bankrupt an industry."

Developers with projects already in the county's review process fear they may be in the greatest financial jeopardy.

"They have expended thousands getting ready before they can build," said Mr. Hull. "They cannot afford downtime. The county has an obligation to those who have contracts and acted in good faith."

County officials say Carroll needs the temporary halt to concentrate on a new master plan and attempt to eliminate deficiencies, particularly in its schools and roads. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said the county cannot allow new subdivisions under the old plan while it is developing a new one.

But the county already has stringent growth controls in place, and only South Carroll needs a reworked plan, Mr. Hull said.

"People build what, where, when and how they are told," said Mr. Hull. "There is no opportunity to do anything but. Now they are telling us to stop for 18 months. It is an unconscionable way to dump on people trying to do business."

Officials already have eliminated building permits from the proposed ban, and Mr. Brown said Thursday that he would consider other revisions to the ordinance. The commissioners plan to leave the record open on the ordinance for another week.

Wayne Schuster, a South Carroll resident and professional planner, said he has a compromise "that may address the concerns of those impacted by no development."

In a letter to commissioners, he outlined a plan shielding from the proposed ordinance all preliminary and final subdivision plans that were proposed before March 15 -- the date on which the ordinance would become effective, if enacted. "The preliminary plans could go through the normal process with already existing controls," said Mr. Schuster. "Some would be denied for inadequate facilities. We have to draw the line at inadequate schools."

He also would regulate the rate of permits in the Freedom area, where one-third of all new Carroll homes were built last year.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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