Adequate facilities bill is inadequate Carroll County: Ordinance missing key elements to effectively control growth.

January 14, 1998

NOW IN THE FINAL STAGES of revision, Carroll County's proposed adequate public facilities ordinance appears, well, inadequate.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates, in fact, had to ask for information that should have been requested previously in the celebrated closed-door negotiations that his fellow commissioner, W. Benjamin Brown, held with developer interests.

In the face of claims by developers and county staff that far less than half the 6,400 recorded lots in Carroll were "buildable," Mr. Yates proposed a survey of recorded lot owners to determine their intent to develop.

Maybe such a survey won't be legally binding, but at least the commissioners would have a firmer basis for exempting existing recorded lots from the law's growth-control provisions. The letters would also provide documentation in zoning and use disputes.

As we have stated previously, controls must be placed on the development of recorded lots under the law, which aims to restrict housing growth in Carroll to 6,000 units over six years. This is essential for the county to provide schools, roads and other services and facilities for those new residents.

In that respect, it is disturbing that portable classrooms -- nearly 120 of them now in use -- are counted in the ordinance as available pupil space.

The effect is to condemn county schools to perpetual crowding, only to be solved by reducing the learning experience for unlucky students.

Both the school board and commissioners should seek to reduce the number of "trailer" classrooms, rather than institutionalize their use.

The latest draft of the ordinance -- upon which Carroll's long-awaited master plan for land use depends -- also sidesteps the county Planning and Zoning Commission in determining the adequacy of facilities.

Analysis will be made by county staff, without open hearings by the planning commission. The decisions may be professionally impartial, but would lack the important test of open public comment.

As the proposed ordinance has evolved, it seems less a tool for restraining developers and more a commitment to provide "concurrent" development of houses and public services.

That is why more and more citizens are protesting a bill they

once warmly supported.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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