Plan finds few takers Committee urges higher densities, business zoning

Freedom area blueprint

County Commission sees problems with schools, roads, water

July 17, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners yesterday gave a cool reception to a new blueprint to guide growth in South Carroll, the county's most populated area.

The Freedom Area Citizens Advisory Committee, which devoted two years to the plan, envisions a business zone, a 100-acre town center and housing priced at the Freedom-area median -- about $150,000.

The plan is a recommendation, subject to review by the county planning commission.

The Freedom plan covers 47 square miles of South Carroll, from the Baltimore County line on the east to Route 97 on the west. Since the original plan was adopted in 1977, the area's population has doubled to an estimated 28,000.

At their first look at the proposal yesterday, the commissioners saw more traffic on Route 26 -- a five-lane highway at its busiest intersection; more homes in an area where roads, schools and utilities are already overburdened; and more government.

"In this form, I would have to send this proposal back," said County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown. "Any notion of rezoning for higher density flies in the face of problems with roads, schools, water and sewer. We have to get facilities questions straightened out first."

A recent traffic study predicted major intersections in the area, particularly the crossing at Routes 26 and 32, will fail within the next few years. When the study was released, Brown said that if predictions were true, he would "put Freedom to bed, shut down growth."

The committee took the opposite tack and recommended rezoning additional acreage for residential development and increasing the density allowed in some areas.

"The committee was thinking of the need for housing on a scale lower than $300,000," said Raj Williams, a county planner who worked closely with the committee.

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell said Freedom is struggling with problems of water supply and cannot accommodate more development.

The plan would create a business-friendly atmosphere with a BTC boulevard zone along Route 26 and along Route 32 north from Route 26 to Bennett Road. Such zoning could control access, landscaping and signage.

"We already have a boulevard but without the controls on what is there," said Steve Horn, county bureau chief of planning.

The committee's plan for a town center, with homes, businesses and offices along Oklahoma Road, came under criticism. The concept would create a Main Street area that would "replicate everything you can think of for a town and weave it into the existing environment," Horn said.

"What you have here is really a town, but something is missing in terms of an identity," he said.

County Commissioner Richard T. Yates said the town center concept implies that residents want to be an incorporated town.

"I have lived here for 36 years and people don't want to even talk about incorporation," Yates said. "You are going about this without knowing what the pulse is down there."

The planning department mailed surveys to nearly 8,500 households two years ago and received 1,800 replies.

"Nearly 53 percent of the replies agreed that the Freedom area needs to create a community core," Williams said.

The only certain element in the plan is that it will change, said Horn. The draft goes to the county planning commission next week.

The commission will probably schedule work sessions in Eldersburg to give residents another look at the concept.

Pub Date: 7/17/98

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