Weaker planning commission Concurrency ordinance shifts growth control to commissioners.

March 26, 1998

ONCE THE lightning rod of growth-management decisions in Carroll, the county's Planning and Zoning Commission this month found itself stripped of much power by the new Concurrency Management Ordinance.

The commission quickly signaled retreat, withdrawing court appeals of 11 subdivision plans (on which it had been overturned by the Board of Zoning Appeals). At the county commissioners' request, the seven-member planning commission abandoned the adequate public facilities standards it adopted two years ago.

"The bottom line is we will rarely deny subdivision plans," said Thomas Hiltz, the commission chairman. Until this month, the commission could reject a subdivision plan if it would overburden schools and other public facilities. Now that decision rests with county staff and the commissioners.

The ordinance limits the number of new home lots in crowded school districts, allowing the county's capital improvements budget to determine where development can take place.

A maximum of 1,050 new building permits can be issued by June 30, 1999, the commissioners have decided. Further, the 11 subdivision plans (some 350 homes) that the planning commission appealed to state courts will have first claim to permits.

The planning commission will still see if proposed subdivisions conform to the master land use plan, meet state and local law and code and are consistent with the neighborhood. But its crucial, controversial role in pegging subdivision approval to adequate facilities is history.

It wasn't long ago that the commission was rocked by controversy including conflict of interest accusations and the ouster of a member. Commission meetings are certain to be less contentious. But they will still fulfill an important, if lesser, function in assuring rational development.

Pub Date: 3/26/98

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