Update sought on how land is used

Commissioners want data from study to help plan policy

July 27, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

During a discussion on Carroll's plan for growth and development, the county commissioners yesterday asked planners to determine how land is being used in the county, a process that was last completed in 1994.

The study will show how much land has been reserved for agricultural preservation, residential development and industrial or commercial uses. The commissioners have asked that the data be illustrated on a map, so they can see where development is occurring and assess the county's needs.

"The only way we can plan for the future is to look at the facts," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "The information we have is not factual. It's outdated."

How long it will take to complete the land-use study was not known yesterday.

"We will have to see which pieces we already have and which we don't," said Steve Horn, county planning director.

The commissioners ordered the study as part of their review of the county's proposed master plan, a process that is expected to take about four months. Last year, the previous board of commissioners shelved the plan, leaving it for this board to discuss.

The proposed plan would direct development to the county's nine designated growth areas, set strategies for protecting 100,000 acres of farmland and rezone five properties totaling 223 acres to foster economic development.

The commissioners can accept or reject the proposed plan, but cannot amend it.

Many of the goals and policies included in the document were based on a 1994 land-use study. Since then, county figures show Carroll's population has grown by about 9 percent -- from 138,384 residents five years ago to 151,743 today.

Educated decisions

Gouge suggested yesterday that an updated land-use map would enable the three-member Board of County Commissioners to make educated decisions about Carroll's development.

"My concern has been that we have not targeted enough land in the north -- especially on the east side -- and in the central parts of the county for preservation," Gouge said. "We need to decide if we need to target those areas, and if we do, we may need to develop some kind of incentive program."

The commissioners are considering a program that would allow builders to increase the density of homes in one area if they preserve rural land in another. The policy, known as transferable development rights, would allow builders to buy development rights in an area where the commissioners want land protected and transfer them to another area.

Similar policies are used in Montgomery and Calvert counties and counties in California and New Jersey. The commissioners directed Carroll's planning staff to do more research on how those programs are run.

Rezoning debated

The commissioners also debated whether the county should be rezoned, a process that would take at least three months, according to Horn. Residents would be invited to appear before the planning commission and request that their property be rezoned.

A countywide rezoning has never been conducted in Carroll, though the land-use designation of several properties was changed in 1978 when the county updated the parameters of its agricultural zone.

The commissioners will continue discussing the proposed master plan at another public meeting in two weeks.

Pub Date: 7/27/99

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