A hope for less rancor on Carroll growth curbs

December 21, 1997|By W. Benjamin Brown

"PLAY FAIR" is one of childhood's first lessons. Only now, in my sixth decade, do I fully appreciate how challenging that sometimes is.

Better management of Carroll County's growth has been the central focus of my term in office.

Whether the effort involved raising impact fees, expanding the planning commission, passing an interim control ordinance (IDCO), revising Carroll's master growth plan or drafting a management ordinance, the atmosphere has been rancorous throughout.

Landowners resent restrictions on the use of their land. The building trades people fear loss of work. The development industry worries that uncertainty and financing don't go hand in hand. And citizens feel the negative impact of rapid development.

All had a right to be heard and respected. A careful reading of the ordinance shows we've done both.

For planning purposes, the ordinance addresses the future in six-year incements.

It reduces Carroll's rate of growth by 25 percent, from the recent average of almost 8,000 new houses to a six-year average of 6,000. It also enables the commissioners to slow development in districts with severe inadequacies.

Impact fees up front

Another important feature is that all fees will be collected when a building permit is issued, and will not be refundable.

Having the impact fees a year or more in advance of a new home's occupancy will allow the county to get ahead of the curve in meeting facility needs critical to a government long plagued by the need to play catch-up. All other interest groups have reason to support the ordinance as well.

Farmers, who own more than half of Carroll's land and had their development potential greatly diminished in 1978, will continue to have the right to develop three or less lots without restriction.

Individual lot owners are not restricted. Although there are some 6,400 recorded parcels, less than 200 a year historically are built upon. Such development has minimal impact countywide.

By exempting recorded lots, banks will continue to accept the lot as collateral for building loans.

Small builders, who normally serve the needs of farmers and individual lot owners, can take assurance that they have a future in Carroll County.

The recording of lots from the date of the ordinance's passage will be directly tied to the existence of adequate facilities now or in the future. Throughout, the process has been one of identifying what was fairest to our community individually and as a whole.

The work groups that labored long in reviewing the elements of Carroll's growth plan were not empowered to write ordinances, as some have argued. Their role was to debate the issues from all perspectives so that those of us elected to lead could have the benefit of hearing.

Listening period

Without that period of "listening," there would have been no alternative to arbitrary actions that might have caused real harm FTC and most certainly would have raised the level of resentment.

While some will still complain, I truly believe the ordinance affords our community an opportunity to have a little "peace on earth."

I hope that we will all cooperate toward achieving that goal. Happy New Year to one and all.

The writer is a Carroll County commissioner.

Pub Date: 12/21/97

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