Under pressure from Baltimore-area officials, the Carroll commissioners tabled requests last night to rezone for industrial use 424 mostly rural acres in the Liberty Reservoir watershed, the source of drinking water for 1.8 million Marylanders.
The commissioners' decision to table the rezoning requests for 60 days occurred as the three-member board was preparing to hear public comments on a long-awaited master plan to guide development in the county. The board is expected to adopt the 117-page document next month.
FOR THE RECORD - A headline in yesterday's Carroll County edition misidentified Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. The Sun regrets the error.
The board's deliberations on the proposed land-use changes lasted less than 10 minutes. In the past, the commissioners have argued that Carroll desperately needs industrial land. The county has had to turn away prospective business because of the lack of attractive industrial land with natural gas lines and public utilities.
Baltimore County and Baltimore City officials have objected to zoning changes in the watershed, fearing development could contaminate Liberty Reservoir.
About 100 people gathered in the auditorium at Westminster High School to hear the board's comments about the master plan and proposed rezoning of seven properties - five of which are in the watershed. An eighth property, a 70-acre site near the county airport north of Westminster, also was considered for rezoning but the property owner withdrew his request last week. That site is in the watershed.
"I would urge the board to remove the more than 50 [conditional] uses that are permitted in the industrial zone before any more rezonings are permitted," Finksburg resident Donald Hoffman told the board.
The commissioners last night approved rezoning 87 acres - not in the watershed - for business development. Seventeen acres on Twin Arch Road near Mount Airy were rezoned for commercial use, and 70 acres off Route 31, near the LaFarge quarry, were rezoned for industrial use.
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier have tried unsuccessfully to get wording in the Liberty Reservoir Watershed Management Agreement changed so that land can be rezoned for industry. The agreement is designed to protect land around the reservoir from overdevelopment.
Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and state officials have refused to allow any changes to the document, which last was renewed in 1996, so Dell and Frazier have refused to sign it. Board President Julia Walsh Gouge wants to sign the four-page document, but her colleagues have protested.
"It's our hope that in 60 days, we'll have something we can sign," Dell said. He would not comment further.
The commissioners did not invite public comment on the rezoning process, but several residents alluded to the rezoning requests as they addressed the board on the proposed master plan.
"Please look at the criteria that's in your own master plan and apply that criteria" when you consider these requests, Dorsey Crossroads resident John Dozsa urged the board. The master plan calls on the commissioners to provide appropriate industrial land, preferably in planned growth areas with adequate public facilities and natural resources can be adequately protected.
During the meeting, Dozsa and about 30 other residents waved signs objecting to the rezoning of 218 acres of farmland in South Carroll for industrial use. The parcel is not in a planned growth area.
Dozsa's comments echoed remarks made at a public hearing in June on the proposed rezonings. At that hearing, residents expressed concerns about the likely swell in traffic that might result from development of the South Carroll farm and a nearby 70-acre tract. They also are worried that light industry in their back yards could contaminate the ground water supplying their wells.
The rezoning requests tabled were:
* 218 acres on the west side of Route 97, north of Route 26, in South Carroll. This land is in the watershed and was rejected by the planning commission. Proposed use: industrial.
* 70 acres on the east side of Route 97, north of Route 26, in South Carroll. This land is in the watershed and was recommended for rezoning by the planning commission. Proposed use: industrial.
* 20 acres on the south side of Liberty Road, east of Ridge Road, in South Carroll. This land is in the watershed and was recommended for rezoning by the planning commission. Proposed use: commercial.
* 0.8 acres on East Main Street, outside Westminster city limits. This land is in the watershed and was recommended for rezoning by the planning commission. Proposed use: commercial.
* 115 acres on the north side of Route 140, northwest of the county landfill. This land is in the watershed and was recommended for rezoning by the planning commission. Proposed use: industrial.