IN TWO SWIFT MOVES this month, the Carroll commissioners firmly stamped the "slow growth" label on the county's controversial subdivision approval process.
But in doing so, they also limited potential public input, and fervent "no-growthers" may well find cause for future complaint.
The appointment of two new members of the Planning and Zoning Commission solidifies the hold on that body of the two majority, slow-growth commissioners, W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates. Mortgage banker Robin Frazier is the only one of seven members they did not choose. The duo made it clear that they will not permit odd-man-out Commissioner Donald I. Dell to name a member of this most powerful body in county government. They also confirmed their decision to exclude from the commission anyone with the slightest professional ties to real estate interests.
And in an administrative maneuver, the two commissioners proposed to eliminate the power of the Board of Zoning Appeals in approval of new subdivisions. The planning commission (and the majority commissioners) have clashed with the appeals board on several development applications in recent years.
The main rationale voiced by Messrs. Brown and Yates was to simplify and expedite the subdivision process, allowing the losing party before the planning commission to directly appeal to the courts. It would also make Carroll's procedure consistent with the rest of the state (except Cecil County), if formally adopted.
The current planning commission will act as a strong brake on growth for the foreseeable future, well beyond the 1998 election. The appeals panel would still decide variances and exceptions, but its major growth-control authority over new subdivisions would be removed.
At the same time, public input at the appeals level would be greatly curtailed: court hearings are invariably limited to issues of procedure rather than substance. That's a call for the public to present full arguments on any proposed project to the planning commission, instead of waiting for the appeal.
The new master plan for land use to be adopted by year's end will shape growth pattern for the next decade. But the planning commission will be more powerful -- and likely more protective and predictable -- than ever.
Pub Date: 6/27/97