Planners OK proposal to guide growth action by commissioners due

Effort is the first in more than 3 decades

July 22, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Carroll's planning commission approved a new plan to guide the county's growth yesterday -- the first such plan adopted in 34 years.

The plan goes to the County Commissioners for ratification. The commissioners can accept the plan or reject it, but they cannot amend it.

The planning panel's 5-0 vote yesterday culminates two years of work by the commission, its staff and more than 100 volunteers.

Afterward, Chairman Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine quoted Benjamin Franklin. "The perfect should not be an enemy of the good," Hiltz said. "This plan may not be perfect, but there is a lot of good in it."

Grant Dannelly of Marriottsville and Deborah L. Ridgely of Finksburg -- the only members of the planning panel to make comments before the vote -- said it was time to approve the plan despite its flaws.

"I'm still concerned about spot zoning," Dannelly said.

The panel considered several requests for rezoning and rejected most of them. However, the panel "turned around at the 11th hour" and approved a property it had earlier rejected -- a 115-acre parcel adjacent to the county's Northern Landfill that would change from agricultural to industrial use.

"We are setting a precedent for spot zoning industrial uses along major highways," he said.

The commission had "come to the point at which we have to pass something," Dannelly said. "The time has come that we have to move on."

Ridgely agreed: "I still have concerns, but it's time to move on to something else."

County Planning Director Philip J. Rovang, who came from Iowa nearly four years ago to shepherd the county through the rezoning process, took a deep breath when asked to share his reflections on what has been accomplished.

"We have people who've really thrown themselves into the process," he said. Citizen work groups produced "very strong advocates" for initiatives such as "preservation of the land and low residential densities," he said. "That message has gotten through to the planning commission."

The master plan, for example, calls for the permanent preservation of 100,000 acres of agricultural land by 2016 and calls on the county to have the infrastructure in place to accommodate another 56,000 residents by 2020, bringing the population to 200,000. It would direct most of the new growth to community planning areas already developed.

"One thing we have learned," Rovang said, "is that this is a document of compromise -- a balance of people's wants and desires" -- which is what gives it "a chance of being accepted."

Planning Commission member Melvin E. Baile Jr. of New Windsor was also in a reflective mood yesterday after the vote.

"Unless you were involved, you didn't realize how thoroughly we reviewed the incredible amount of information the [citizen] work teams gave to us," he said. "We went through their recommendations word by word, line by line." The County Commissioners are expected to take up the plan once Westminster has responded to a last-minute request for a change in zoning that would become part of the plan.

Carroll Land Use Services Inc., which operates its business on mostly residential property just outside the city limits on Main Street, asked that the property be rezoned for general business use in keeping with the zoning of adjoining properties.

The planning commission agreed and included that recommendation in the master plan package forwarded to the commissioners.

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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