Responding to a slowdown in home construction and lower school enrollment projections, the county commissioners lifted growth limits in the South Carroll High School district yesterday.
The commissioners also eased restrictions in the Liberty High School district, permitting 180 new homes a year, up from 150. The additional 30 homes will be earmarked for developers of single lots.
Yesterday's changes -- both passing on 2-1 votes -- update the county's year-old growth-control ordinance, which limits new residential units countywide to about 1,000 each year for the next six years.
The law gives the commissioners the power to direct development to areas where schools, roads and public services are adequate and restrict it in areas where they are not.
In South Carroll, the county had limited the number of new homes to 200 a year because projected enrollment at South Carroll High School would have 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 indicate that South Carroll High will have 1,486 students this fall, about 14 percent over capacity.
Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier pushed to lift the limits in that district yesterday, saying the new figures show there is no need for them.
"I think if we have no inadequacy, then the cap should be lifted," she said.
Although Liberty High School is expected to be 37 percent over capacity this fall, Frazier also asked that the county allow 30 additional single-family lots in that district.
The additional lots would help protect the interests of small developers, she said. Without the additional lots, major subdivision developers, who build dozens of homes each year, could easily use up all available allotments.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell voted in favor of both measures.
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge voted against easing the limits in South Carroll, saying she was not convinced that the roads are adequate. She also voted against the 30-lot increase for the Liberty High School area.
Last week, Gouge questioned the adequacy of water resources in the South Carroll district. Before the vote yesterday, Scott Campbell, the county's fire protection engineer, reviewed water availability and pressure statistics for South Carroll and concluded that there were adequate resources for fire protection.
"I have seen nothing that would alarm us," he said.
Frazier and Gouge asked the county staff to monitor water demand in South Carroll. Under the guidelines of the ordinance, each single-family home must have 300 gallons of water per day, a standard the county meets.
The commissioners said they are concerned about the seasonal shortages that beset South Carroll. After a two-week ban on outdoor water use this month, South Carroll residents are allowed to use water outdoors on alternating days. The ban gave the county time to fill a new $750,000, million-gallon storage tank.
The water had to come from the county's daily allotment of 3 million gallons from Liberty Reservoir. Although construction was complete, there had not been enough extra water to fill the tank.
The county is tapping new water sources. Wells drilled at Springfield Hospital Center could pour an additional 1 million gallons a day into the system by late next summer.
Although yesterday's vote means there will be no annual limits on new homes in the South Carroll High School district, growth there is still checked by the countywide limit of 6,000 homes over the next six years.