Reasons to control growth Carroll County: Exempting some lots from adequate-facilities standards can work.

December 17, 1997

THE FLAP OVER Carroll County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown's private meeting to seek an acceptable compromise with the development community on building of recorded lots was much ado about nothing.

But it reminds Carroll County of the problems inherent in a commissioner form of government, where all three commissioners wear both executive and legislative hats. Such a meeting wouldn't have been a problem under a charter form of government, where those important powers are divided. And for all the criticism of Mr. Brown's methods, commissioners Richard T. Yates and Donald I. Dell indicate they are in general agreement with the proposal that came out of that meeting.

The issue should be whether citizens support that plan: Exempting 6,500 already recorded lots from meeting adequate public facilities standards for capacity of schools, roads and other services. Since the commissioners want to limit growth in Carroll to 6,000 new housing units over six years, to match the projected pace of funding and building additional facilities, that is a crucial decision.

It deserves a very careful look, especially to assure that future development can be directed rationally to areas that may not have a concentration of existing recorded lots. And to assure that pre-recorded lots don't sabotage the important adequate facilities standards. The disclaimer that over half the recorded lots are not "buildable" flies in the face of market logic: these lots' value increases as the supply is limited.

What is needed is some sort of legal control on building permits for recorded lots that can lead to the limited, sensible development implicit in both the extensive overhaul of the county's Master Plan on land use and in the commissioners' aim to peg development to the availability of public facilities.

Prohibiting owners of recorded lots from obtaining building permits in areas without adequate facilities likely would have provoked a serious backlash and court challenge. Allowing them to proceed, with some limits so existing lots do not overwhelm the system, is the best solution. Mr. Brown says the exemption won't create much problem, and we expect the commissioners to ensure that it won't.

Pub Date: 12/17/97

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