Debate continues on growth controls Commissioners plan meeting over hostility to proposed measure

November 18, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The county commissioners will meet with their planning director at 2 p.m. tomorrow to talk about how to respond to the widespread condemnation of two key elements in Carroll's proposed adequate-facilities law.

Nineteen of the 20 people who spoke at a crowded public hearing Wednesday opposed the growth-control measure as drafted, saying it would ruin small builders and spread economic chaos beyond Carroll's building industry.

The only person to support the proposal during the 84-minute hearing, Sykesville activist Vincent DiPietro, appeared to do so halfheartedly.

The effects of growth controls "should be on large developments, not the small builder," he said.

Developers of small projects -- defined by one builder as "12 to 15 homes in a good year, two to four in a bad one" -- object to the bill's calling for the county to issue permits to builders on a first-come, first-served basis in areas where facilities are deemed suitable for growth.

They told the commissioners they do not have the resources to compete with large builders for permits.

"This ordinance will cut my head off and all my employees' heads," said George Dorsey of New Windsor. Dorsey described himself as a "small-fish" builder.

Small and large developers were irate about another proposed change in the county's building permit process.

The bill would bar owners of recorded lots from building on them if the area failed to pass adequate-facilities tests for schools, roads and public safety.

Currently, property owners may obtain building permits for any recorded lot unless they have formally agreed to develop the lots in stages.

Owners of recorded lots who have not applied for building permits and who often use lot recordation as the basis for obtaining loans also object to the proposal.

Yates to seek solution

These owners want previously recorded lots to be exempt.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates said he will look for a way to help people who own recorded lots and are ready to build. However, he said he was not as comfortable exempting recorded lots that have been held for years without any building activity.

"There has to be some movement," he said.

Yates said he is less inclined to yield on the first-come, first-served provision.

"It is a rule of life everywhere else," he said, adding that the bill needs only tinkering. "I can't think of anything fairer."

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown agreed, saying, "We have the basic cut of the coat. It may be hemmed and stitched, but the fabric and style of the coat are going to remain."

Final version

Brown expects the commissioners to complete a final version of the bill in the next few weeks. Despite the objections expressed last week, "my sense is that we're much closer to being on the same page," he said.

Brown said that when the county began work on growth-control measures two years ago, builders "to a man, said there was no problem. Government just needs to get out of the way."

"Now, they're saying we've got a problem. And that's a great leap forward after the denials," Brown said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who supported the bill until last week's hearing, said he hopes the commissioners will now "take each issue one at a time and deal with it."

One way of doing that, Dell said, is for the the commissioners to formally compare their draft with one proposed by a citizens group that worked on an adequate-facilities proposal over the past year.

Group complains

The group has complained that the commissioners' bill strayed too much from their recommendations.

Developers and property owners had expressed their objections earlier, but last week's hearing was the first time bankers had entered the fray, Dell said.

Michael Oster, president and chief executive officer of Carroll County Bank and Trust Co., told the commissioners that the bill is "anti-economic development."

Unless amended, Oster said, the bill would have several "unintended results" -- fewer loans, higher interest rates, fluctuating real estate values, lost jobs and financial losses for property owners, banks and the county government.

Pub Date: 11/18/97

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