Residents protest housing growth Commissioners hear concerns over Eldersburg

July 11, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Eleven South Carroll residents jousted with county officials yesterday in an attempt to persuade the County Commissioners to halt residential growth in the Eldersburg area.

The residents, gathered under the aegis of a loosely knit group called Solutions for a Better South Carroll, presented the commissioners with three demands during a frequently acrimonious 69-minute meeting. They called for:

A moratorium of at least one year on residential building permits in the Freedom planning district. The district encompasses the southeastern corner of the county, including Sykesville and Eldersburg. It is the fastest-growing area of the county.

The commissioners to sue the Planning Commission for approving subdivision plans at its June 18 meeting.

The commissioners to "take steps" to remove members from the seven-member Planning Commission or ask for their resignations.

Residents often used confrontational questions to press their demands, and it was during such exchanges that George A. Lahey, county attorney, cited the three conditions under which planning board members can be removed. They are: inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance.

Although appointed by the commissioners, Planning Commission members "do not serve at the pleasure of the commissioners," Lahey said. They have "very similar job security" to elected officials, such as the county sheriff, he said.

Slow-growth activist Dan Hughes, founder of Solutions for a Better South Carroll, argued that Planning Commission members could be removed for "inefficiency" if they have voted to approve subdivision plans in areas where schools, roads, or public health and safety were rated inadequate by government agencies.

Lahey, however, argued, "The mere fact that you disagree with the Planning Commission does not equal inefficiency. The commission may have been highly efficient in approving subdivisions" opposed by residents, he said.

Earlier, Steven D. Powell, county budget director, told residents that the county would lose about $2.5 million in impact fees if residential development was halted in South Carroll.

The county has included those fees in this year's budget, along with several hundred thousand dollars a developer has agreed to pay for a South Carroll pumping station, he said.

Hughes said the fees expected to be generated by the 1,000 or so houses yet to be built in South Carroll are not enough to cover school construction, much less other services such as libraries, roads, and police and fire protection, he said.

"That bill is going to come due with the current development," he said. "That is why we want a time out."

Powell said the long-term solution to Carroll's growth problems is to attract more businesses. Businesses, he said, generally pay more in taxes than they use in services.

Pub Date: 7/11/96

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