Bill to limit residential growth OK'd Commissioners vote to limit building to 6,000 lots in 6 years

Yates' support critical

Measure lets board direct new housing to less-crowded areas

March 06, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners enacted a residential growth-control bill yesterday that is virtually identical to a measure they rejected two weeks ago.

The bill, which took effect immediately, limits residential building to 6,000 lots over the next six years. The measure will allow the commissioners to direct housing developments to areas where schools, roads and public services are adequate and restrict it elsewhere.

The commissioners' approval of the legislation came after Commissioner Richard T. Yates became convinced the bill would give the commissioners the tools to control growth.

The bill exempts 6,722 vacant lots that have already been through the subdivision-review process. Yates said he worried initially that the exemptions would make the growth controls meaningless and voted against the bill on Feb. 17.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell also opposed the bill on that vote, so that Yates' concerns could be addressed. Dell said he wanted unanimous approval for what he called "as important a document as anybody ever produced in this county."

Yesterday's vote was unanimous, but Dell was unable to accomplish a second goal. He had hoped Yates or Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown would support his proposal to exempt minor subdivisions -- those with five lots or less -- from the controls. They did not.

Dell said he felt the exemption was needed to address the concerns of small builders. It would have given them "a reason and justification to stay" in Carroll without imperiling efforts to control growth, he said. Historically, minor subdivisions have added only 17 homes a year in the county, he said.

Exempt lots

Yates said he took an in-depth look at the 6,722 lots exempt under the bill and found that 4,141 of them were in the "areas of greatest concern areas where I understand that the quality of life is being diminished by growth."

But he said he learned that one-third of those owners do not intend to build in the next six years and another third have problems with their lots that make them unsuitable for building.

"Therefore, there are 1,380 -- and not 4,141 -- lots that can be built upon in areas most affected by residential growth," he said.

Yates said county attorneys assured him that all new lots would have to be approved by the commissioners, and therefore, "I vote aye on the ordinance."

As Yates cast his vote, making the decision unanimous, a crowd of bankers, developers, homebuilders and members of the county Economic Development Commission burst into applause.

Brown pleased

An ebullient Brown thanked fellow commissioners and others who worked on the bill and shepherded it through more than 50 revisions since it was introduced in October.

The bill puts "predictability" back into Carroll's subdivision process for residents and the business community, Brown said.

Dell gave thanks "for the thousands of hours of volunteer time" that went into "an ordinance we can be proud of."

"I hope it's a good thing for the county," he said.

Yates thanked those who helped him review the 6,722 lots exempt from the bill.

"I feel now that we do have the ability to control growth," he said. "This ordinance is going a long way to prove that."

Fears expressed

Developer Richard L. Hull, president of Carroll Land Services Inc., was less enthusiastic about the bill.

"I still believe this is going to throttle development far beyond what the county wants throttled," he said.

The problem is going to be getting subdivisions started again, not stopping them, he said.

The county budget office has said Carroll needs about 950 new homes a year to generate enough impact fee revenue to pay for schools and other infrastructure.

'Predictability'

Susan S. Davies, government relations liaison for the Home Builders Association of Maryland, was more optimistic.

"I think that in passing the ordinance, they are putting predictability back into the [subdivision] process in Carroll County, which will then create confidence" among homebuilders, she said. "The commissioners are to be commended for their willingness to reconsider this ordinance and pass it."

Business leaders also expressed optimism.

"I am delighted," said Louna S. Primm, senior vice president of Carroll Bank and Trust Co. and chairwoman of the county Economic Development Commission. "It's been a long process, but necessary so that everyone could feel comfortable. I am very pleased that the commissioners were unanimous."

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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