Panel aims for slower expansion

Commissioners say public wants growth held back in Freedom

Decision brings applause

Infrastructure needed before more houses are built, planner says

April 01, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Nearly 1,100 homes proposed for the Freedom Area, Carroll's most populous region, will not be built because the planning commission has delayed the necessary zoning.

Reviewing a growth plan for Freedom, the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended no rezoning for residential development on 1,500 acres and approved the creation of a business district and an employment campus.

"We should leave property as it is zoned, not change it at all," said planning commissioner Grant Dannelly in a reference to a 295-acre parcel near Linton Road, which is zoned for agricultural use. "There is no valid reason to rezone."

Dannelly reiterated that comment for two other properties proposed for rezoning. One is zoned for conservation and the other for agriculture.

Schools, roads and utilities in Freedom, which includes Eldersburg and Sykesville, are crowded by more than 28,000 residents. Many have vigorously opposed new development until schools and roads are built to serve it.

"The infrastructure is incomplete for people who live here now," said Dannelly, an Eldersburg resident. "We can't open this area up for more development."

The commission's decision brought applause from nearly 40 people attending a planning workshop Tuesday at Liberty High School. Since a draft of the plan was completed last year, the commission has held several workshops and a public hearing that drew nearly 500 people.

"The purpose of these extended public information meetings was to get public response," said Steven Horn, county director of planning. "The commission did not hear support for residential development."

The record from the hearing in January, as well as several letters, e-mails and petitions, showed a vocal public opposed to increased development.

"The decision shows the comments at the public hearing had some impact," said Phil Bennett, chairman of the Freedom Area Citizens Council, which serves as a liaison between the county and residents. "It would be nice if there was some relaxation of the building."

The commission also denied rezoning to two large parcels along Obrecht Road.

Because about 3,000 potential building lots are approved for development in South Carroll, Bennett said he does not expect to see building curtailed.

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who is also a member of the planning panel, said public comments have convinced him of the soundness of the decision against rezoning.

"We have been hearing almost hysteria about more people moving in down there," Dell said. "Why would we add more homes? Deferring rezoning for six years is a good move."

Going to commissioners

After several months, the commission has nearly completed its work on the Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan. The document, which will chart growth for 20 years, will go to the county commissioners, probably by mid-May.

The board can adopt the amended plan or refer it to the planning panel for changes. Once it is adopted, the plan will be reviewed every six years.

"By then [2005], we may be in a position to determine how well the other areas of planning, particularly roads and schools, are progressing," said Deborah Ridgely, planning commission chairwoman.

The commission did change a 75-acre parcel adjacent to an industrial park near Route 97 from agriculture zoning to industrial. Members also voted to create an employment campus on unused agriculture land at Springfield Hospital Center, a state-owned facility.

"I would love to see an employment campus come to fruition in Carroll County," said Ridgely. "It really makes sense in that area."

Boulevard district

The commission approved a boulevard district for the congested Liberty Road corridor, from Johnsville Road east to the reservoir, and for Route 32 from MacBeth Way to Bennett Road. A renewed commercial district would focus on service roads, landscaping and signs.

"The boulevard district is much needed as the heart of the planning area, as far as access, safety and appearance," said Horn. "We need to create something everybody can live with and get people involved. This designation recognizes the changing role of the Routes 26 and 32 corridors."

A final workshop will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the media center at Liberty High School, 5855 Bartholow Road. Information: 410-386-2145.

Pub Date: 4/01/99

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