Growth limits may be eased

Services adequate for more building, county planner says

200-home ceiling at issue

June 15, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

With the rate of development in South Carroll slowing to its lowest levels in recent years, the county commissioners are considering whether to ease controls on the number of homes that can be built there.

At issue is the growth-control ordinance passed by the commissioners last year, which limits new residential units countywide to about 1,000 units each year for the next six years.

The law gives the commissioners power to direct development to areas where schools, roads and public services are adequate and restrict it in areas without them.

In South Carroll, the county limited the number of new homes to 200 a year because projected school enrollment at South Carroll High School would put it over capacity by more than 20 percent through 2001. Under the ordinance, a school is considered inadequate if its enrollment is 20 percent above capacity.

New enrollment figures, however, indicate that South Carroll High will have 1,486 students this fall, about 14 percent over capacity.

Steve Horn, the county's director of planning, recommended that the 200-house limit in South Carroll be lifted because county services are adequate to handle more growth. South Carroll's growth would still be limited by the countywide 1,000-home limit.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier supported easing the limits.

"I think if there is no inadequacy, there is not reason to set an allocation," she said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge cautioned that the county should consider the impact of opening the door to a rush of development. Other services -- such as water and roads -- should be reviewed before a decision is made, she said.

"We don't know what's coming this year or the next year," she said.

The commissioners tabled a vote on the limits until later this month so that they can discuss the issue further. Under the ordinance, the commissioners must make a decision on growth limits before July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

The planning department also recommends limits on new housing in the district where students attend Liberty High School, which will be 37 percent over capacity in the fall. The county has limited development to 150 new lots each year for the next two fiscal years.

In Hampstead, development would be kept to 75 new lots a year for the same period, until a new middle school opens there. The county plans to limit Westminster's growth to 350 lots each year through 2002.

The county's rate of growth has plummeted since 1995, when 550 preliminary residential plans were approved by the county planning commission. The number of new lots approved dropped to 276 in 1996, when the commissioners banned new subdivisions.

"We really turned the faucet back," said Horn.

This year, there will be about 170 new residential lots, slightly more than last year, when the planning commission approved plans for 146 homes.

Pub Date: 6/15/99

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