The Planning and Zoning Commission will begin wrestling in earnest tonight with preliminary plans for dealing with Carroll's most explosive issue -- population growth.
Slow-growth advocates say the county -- which has grown by 16 percent, or 20,550 people, since the 1990 census -- has more people than it can accommodate, especially along the borders with Baltimore, Frederick and Howard counties.
For example, South Carroll has seen its population grow by nearly one-third in seven years while Hampstead has seen a 51 percent growth and Mount Airy a 35 percent growth.
Growth in the Frederick portion of Mount Airy -- 66 percent since the last census -- is an indication of the pressure building on the county's borders, neighborhood activists say.
Meanwhile, business leaders, developers and homebuilders complain that year-old growth controls and rigid criteria limiting development in areas with crowded schools have dealt a nearly fatal blow to Carroll's homebuilding industry.
Impact fees and other revenue lost as a result of the building slowdown will force more tax increases, developers say.
The County Commissioners raised the local income tax rate 16 percent two years ago to build schools needed by 2001.
And they raised the property tax rate 11.5 percent, or 27 cents per $100 of assessed value, last year to maintain essential services.
Against that background, the Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a work session tonight with two citizens groups that have been helping decide what should be included in the next Master Plan to guide the county's growth. The plan is expected to be finished in about 18 months.
The draft goals and recommendations of the land use and agricultural land preservation work teams that are the subjects of the work session reflect the tensions between builders and slow-growth advocates.
While county officials are concerned that too-stringent controls on growth will hurt economic development, Carroll will have an estimated 200,000 people by 2020 -- 53,864 above the current population.
The county planning department recommended that the county meet the challenge by:
Having facilities and services in place to serve 200,000 people by 2020.
Rezoning, if necessary, to ensure that there will be enough building lots available to accommodate the population growth.
Ensuring that land in community planning areas where 75 percent of the new growth is to occur is "not underdeveloped."
Adopting minimum density levels of four units per acre in community planning areas and require the lots to be within planned water and sewer service areas.
Providing incentives such as density bonuses for developing moderately priced housing -- townhouses and apartments -- to ensure that 10 percent of all new units are moderately priced.
On the other hand, Land Use Work Team recommendations, which should appeal to slow-growth activists, call for:
A minimum of 30 recreational acres for every 1,000 residents.
Increasing the overall forest cover within the county by 30 percent.
Reducing commuter traffic by 10 percent of 1990 levels.
Preserving sites designated or in the process of being designated historical resources or natural attractions.
Increasing the rate of agricultural land preservation.
The last recommendation parallels that of the Agricultural Preservation Work Team, which also will be on the agenda tonight.
The agricultural work team wants Carroll to preserve 3,750 acres a year over the next 10 years to reach the goal of 100,000 acres by 2016.
The work team suggests that the county levy a tax of up to 1 percent on all property transfers to underwrite the preservation program.
Pub Date: 5/13/97