Preaching to the unconverted

Carroll County: Commissioner Dell finds Smart Growth religion, warns of sin of unchecked growth.

May 19, 2000

THE WORDS came from an unexpected source. Here was Commissioner Donald I. Dell embracing the governor's Smart Growth plan, turning down a church request and wincing at the prospect of more development in Carroll County.

At issue was the petition of two churches outside Mount Airy seeking a county waiver so they could be annexed by the municipality. One of them needed a hookup to the municipal water and sewer lines. Without the waiver, the churches by law would have to wait five years for the annexation.

The commissioners' approval appeared to be a slam dunk. After all, it wasn't as if the two churches were planning to build a home improvement center in town.

The Mount Airy Town Council appeared willing to take in the supplicants. No one spoke against the churches' applications for annexation at a town council meeting earlier this month.

Yet Commissioner Dell was troubled by the possibility that perfidious church leaders might change their minds and decide to sell the property or put up a housing development if they got the waiver. "They are entitled to their opinion, but they are not the governor," the cautious Mr. Dell said of advocates of the zoning waiver.

It's the first time in memory that the Republican commissioner had anything positive to say about Gov. Parris N. Glendening's anti-sprawl Smart Growth program. His indignant remarks were particularly puzzling since Mr. Dell is usually cheering on developers and other proponents of unfettered "property rights."

True, the Mount Airy council would decide on zoning for the two parcels, under the waiver. Mount Airy Baptist plans to expand its parking lot. St. James Episcopal wants to build a new sanctuary and enlarge its nursery school.

These may seem threatening projects to Mr. Dell in his quest for growth control. Pity it didn't strike him that way last year when he endorsed rezoning the Rash farm in South Carroll so a 50-house subdivision could be built there.

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