Developers want law on facilities changed They say county limits cause excessive delays in building projects

June 18, 1996|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Several Howard County developers are looking to loosen the three-year logjam of housing projects in Ellicott City by changing the limits established by the county's adequate public facilities law.

But at the suggestion of Joseph Rutter, director of the Planning and Zoning Department, most skipped last night's public hearing.

However, Rutter predicted the developers will begin privately lobbying council members for changes they want.

The adequate public facilities law is the county's primary means for controlling the rate of housing growth in the county.

It limits new developments in each region to targets set in the county's General Plan.

Its supporters say the system allows public infrastructure -- schools, roads and sewers -- to keep up with the pace of private development.

Controversy comes when developers propose more projects for an area than allowed by the adequate public facilities law. In those cases, developers must line up -- in some cases for years -- until their turn.

Projects in Ellicott City, for example, are backed up three years.

Rutter said some local developers are trying to undermine that system by increasing the number of lots permitted for development in the fast-growing Ellicott City and Elkridge areas.

"You'd throw the General Plan in the trash if you did that," Rutter said after the meeting.

One developer who attended last night's meeting was Chris Carlyle. He hopes to build a 20-lot development on 10 acres off Old Annapolis Road in Ellicott City.

He urged the council to adjust the line between the northern and western regions, as designated by the adequate public facilities law, to allow more housing developments in the Ellicott City area.

"Why sprawl into the west when we haven't finished developing the north?" Carlyle asked the council. "We're running against the grain of the whole allocation process by permitting sprawl to the west."

He said the process of setting strict targets for each region proves inflexible in practice.

But another developer, Chris Fischer of Rockburn Hill Road, urged the council not to adjust the targets.

Fischer and his family have waited a year to build three homes on their property.

They have been living in cramped quarters, but he fears that shifting boundary lines or targets could cost their place in line -- and their right to finally build.

"My family has played by the rules and is ready to [build]," Fischer said. "Please don't change the rules."

Council Chairman Darrel E. Drown, an Ellicott City Republican, said the backlog of projects is evidence that county officials have succeeded in delaying development.

"This is an indication that this is working," Drown said. "We are slowing the building down. Some people would deny that, but it's happening."

But Rutter said the real debate is ahead.

The council has a work session Monday and a legislative session July 1.

Most of the developers who want changes to the law will contact council members before those meetings, Rutter said.

Pub Date: 6/18/96

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