Residents offer vision for growth Issues, strategies put forth as county seeks to revise master plan

'Not a gripe session'

Planners pleased by response of those who attend seminar

April 23, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

County planners say they got some good advice from nearly 100 residents who attended an all-day growth seminar Saturday at Westminster High School.

The residents not only identified issues facing the county as it seeks to revise its master plan, but they offered strategies and policies for dealing with those issues, said Philip Rovang, the county planning director.

"I was very pleased [with] the kinds of responses" offered during the 8 1/2 -hour conference, Mr. Rovang said. "It was not a gripe session."

The next step, he said, is to identify seven or eight subject areas for growth management and begin creating task forces to address them.

Mr. Rovang expects to complete the first part of the process -- identifying consensus concerns -- by the week's end.

The conference, sponsored by the county planning commission, was also valuable in helping to identify residents willing to lend expertise to task forces, he said.

Dan Hughes, a slow-growth activist and founder of Solutions for a Better South Carroll, said the main idea he took from the event was the need to combine management of residential growth with aggressive economic development.

"I think the bottom line is that none of us wants to see Carroll urbanized to any extent," Mr. Hughes said. "We really value our lifestyle here and feel it's threatened by residential development."

Mr. Hughes said he was troubled by one idea that emerged for further study -- a land-use plan called the transfer of development rights.

Although the administering of transfer of development plans varies from place to place, the plans usually have a common element: Property owners in rural parts of the county are paid by developers in urban areas to keep the rural acres from development. In return, developers buying the development rights are able to build more units in urban area than otherwise allowed.

Mr. Hughes said he fears that a transfer of development rights program might adversely affect places such as Eldersburg, "where they need a couple of schools," and Hampstead, "where they need a bypass."

It might work in Mount Airy, he said, "where they want more development." Planning commission member Thomas Hiltz said that although any proposal for transferring development rights needs to be explored "very thoroughly," it can "at least be an ingredient in a recipe for land use."

If it is market driven, it could "minimize the impact of government and become a really exciting alternative" that would help focus growth in areas where it is better suited, he said.

Mr. Hughes said the county could spend its money better by preserving agricultural land. He also wants the county to "aggressively pursue employment campuses" as its main economic development strategy.

The planning director said those issues are the kind that will be explored in depth by the task forces that will be appointed to follow up on the six or seven top themes emerging from the conference.

Mr. Hiltz endorses that idea wholeheartedly. "My feeling is that planning commission goals and visions come from the community," he said. "I found it surprising and encouraging that most people's visions for Carroll County's economic goals are supported and promoted by the master plan."

Pub Date: 4/23/96

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