Changing the neighborhood

Development: Rash farm rezoning opens the door to further loss of agricultural lands.

Agenda 2000 Carroll County

May 16, 2000

THE neighborhood has changed. With those chilling words, the dominoes begin to topple. And they will not stop falling as long as there are developers eager to turn farm fields into subdivisions.

At immediate issue is the plan to build 24 homes on 42 acres of land zoned for agriculture in southwest Carroll County. The owner of the land on Streaker Road seeks county approval of the rezoning.

The character of the neighborhood has significantly changed, from agricultural to residential, the landowner argues. That is the state legal standard that must be met for land to be rezoned.

Even opponents of the rezoning -- residents of Winfield and Woodbine who want to curb suburbanization -- agree that the nature of this area has changed.

But what has not changed in that community is a lack of public services, especially water.

The county planning staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission both rejected the Streaker Road rezoning plan (a smart thing to do), primarily because of strains on facilities.

But now the case is before the county commissioners, who opened the door to such requests last year when they voted to rezone the nearby 145-acre Rash farm for housing.

That pivotal decision significantly bolsters the legal argument that the character of the neighborhood has changed. The next cases of farmland conversion will be collectively buttressed by these ad hoc rezoning decisions made by the commissioners.

The Rash decision may be overturned by the courts. But it is already being used to force redevelopment of farming lands in a county officially committed to preserving agricultural land.

Will the commissioners heed the advice of their staff and citizen advisory panel, or will they continue to serve the great god of property rights?

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