Creating a law to control growth Adequate facilities bill to allow building permits for recorded-lot owners

December 12, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Residential developers won a major victory yesterday when county officials agreed to write the homebuilders' proposals into a bill intended to manage the county's growth.

Earlier versions of the legislation would have barred owners of recorded lots from building homes if the lots were in parts of the county that failed to pass adequate-facilities tests for schools, roads and public safety.

But the next and likely final draft of the bill would follow current policy and allow owners of recorded lots to get building permits whenever they want.

Despite that concession, the County Commissioners said at a work session yesterday that the law would control the county's growth.

A six-year, 6,000-unit limit on residential building permits would remain. Although the number of recorded lots exceeds that ceiling by 429 lots, that is not a problem, the commissioners say, because according to county planners, half of those lots are not buildable.

"We don't risk much at all from exempting these lots," said Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown. "Construction may occur on only 10 to 15 percent" annually -- about 150 lots a year, Brown said.

Even if another 980 other recorded lots covered by public works agreements were given building permits soon after the bill is enacted, the number of building permits would be within the limits permitted under the proposed law, Brown said.

The decision to exempt recorded lots and accept four other developer proposals are based on a five-point memorandum of understanding that Brown worked out in private with Carroll County Bank and Trust Co. President Michael Oster, land use attorney Clark R. Shaffer and key department heads.

Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates complained about not having been included in the meetings or even told about them, but it appears likely they will accept most of what ZTC was decided even if they don't like Brown's methods.

Brown defended those methods this week, saying privacy was needed "in the best interest of the county to move this process along," because public discussions had not resolved the issue.

Brown met twice with Oster and Shaffer for about nine hours of negotiations and then shared their memorandum of understanding with Susan S. Davies, government relations liaison for the Home Builders Association of Maryland, who "refined" it.

Brown told Planning Director Philip J. Rovang yesterday to make Davies' version of the agreement the basis for a revision of the adequate facilities bill.

Davies' refinement is "very workable from the developer side of the equation," builder Martin K. P. Hill told the commissioners.

However, the proposed bill "is definitely going to slow things down substantially," despite the Davies amendments, said developer Richard L. Hull, president of Carroll Land Services Inc.

Hull asked for assurances that the county will not change the criteria for accepting projects into the development pipeline once those criteria have been approved.

"Any withdrawal [of approval] at the final stage [of development] is catastrophic," he said. A developer may spend up to $2,000 a lot before final approval, but often spends $40,000 or more per lot afterward, he said.

"We understand that you must control things at the concept level," Hull said. "We're not happy with it, but we know you're going to tell us the size of the funnel. Once we get through the funnel, we need to know that we can go forward."

Although Dell agreed in principle with some of yesterday's proposals, he wanted the commissioners to conduct a workshop to go through the Davies document "line by line."

Rovang told the commissioners that they would have to do that quickly if they want to enact the bill this month, because Brown will be away after Dec. 19.

If the bill is not enacted next week, the commissioners will not be able to take it up again until the latter part of January, Rovang said.

Brown told Dell, "If we update the ordinance by Dec. 17 [along the lines the homebuilders suggest], we would have two full days to make revisions," if they are needed, Brown said.

The commissioners will meet with state and school officials Wednesday to decide what kind of school adequacy criteria should be included in the bill.

The commissioners have decided that none of the changes being proposed are substantive and do not require another public hearing on the bill.

Pub Date: 12/12/97

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