Commissioner fears residential boom in Taneytown

September 26, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

A plan designed to guide Taneytown's growth during the next 20 years is on the books. But a county commissioner fears the city's comprehensive plan contains a flaw that could turn Taneytown into "another Hampstead."

City officials, who have worked on the plan for 2 1/2 years, said the rapid residential development feared by Commissioner Donald I. Dell is highly unlikely. They said they intend to control the pace of growth.

In Hampstead, a building boom in the 1980s and early 1990s left the town without adequate water, sewer, roads and schools to accommodate residential development. The town's population has grown by 18 percent since 1990, a rate exceeded only by the 21 percent growth in the Eldersburg area.

Taneytown's population has grown at a slightly slower pace -- 15 percent. The comprehensive plan encompasses the city and 1,470 surrounding acres.

Dell is concerned about 693 acres of agricultural land outside the city that have been rezoned for residential development. The rezoning does not become effective unless Taneytown annexes the properties.

"Once you have sewer and water, and the market is right, it wouldn't surprise me to see a big developer come in there and buy the whole 600 acres and put in 1,000 houses," Dell said.

A subdivision that large would leave the County Commissioners scrambling to build additional schools, he said.

The rezoning, Dell said, has ceded control of the pace of development to the city. If the zoning was agricultural, the commissioners could refuse to waive that classification when the property was annexed. Such a refusal would delay development to allow the county to build infrastructure "so we don't have another Hampstead situation," he said.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said he trusts Taneytown officials to pace development.

"It is very important, if we want the [county] comprehensive plan to work, that is, 75 percent of the growth going into and around the incorporated towns, we have to go along with the miniplans," he said.

Manchester is looking to limit growth, and New Windsor is reluctant to accept new development, but "Taneytown is one where they said they'd be glad to take the growth," said Commissioner Richard T. Yates.

"If we want to stick to our plan, we have to work with areas like Taneytown that will accept the growth," he said.

Laverne E. Smith, the city's zoning administrator who chaired the committee that wrote the comprehensive plan, said Taneytown leaders won't allow Dell's fears to be realized.

"We're not going to have wholesale building," he said.

Smith said the city anticipates 65 to 75 new houses a year, based on recent building patterns. If infrastructure is inadequate, the council would refuse to annex subdivisions, he said.

Taneytown's troubled sewer system is near capacity. But the city is under orders from the state Department of the Environment to complete treatment plant improvements by 1999. The city is also expanding capacity.

The city will seek new sewer connections to help pay for the $4 million treatment plant expansion and upgrading. But Mayor W. Robert Flickinger said city officials plan to control growth.

"What do we want to look like in the next 20 years? Do we want to look like Eldersburg? I don't think so," he said.

Thomas G. Hiltz, county planning commission chairman, said Taneytown's location in largely rural northwest Carroll may spare it Hampstead's fate.

"If the citizens learn anything from what's going on not only in Hampstead but in Taneytown, they'll seek to have adequate-public facilities laws that will keep development in check," he said.

The Taneytown planning commission has authority to reject or delay subdivisions where schools, roads, fire protection or similar services are inadequate. But the city doesn't have a process to review subdivision proposals to determine whether facilities are adequate.

Councilman Henry C. Heine Jr., liaison to the city planning commission, said the commission may recommend an ordinance dealing with adequate facilities.

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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