In the shadow of the bypass

Westminster project: Land-use plans shouldn't be blocked by languishing Route 140 idea.

September 21, 2001

PUBLIC PROJECTS long planned but never realized cast a shadow of uncertainty over private development.

That prospect has to be accepted by anyone who buys land with such pencilled-in possibilities on the plat.

But one can appreciate the frustration of James Harris, who bought a 100-acre field east of Westminster in 1985 intending to develop 46 building lots, which already had preliminary county approval.

Since then, his plans have been stymied by 40-year-old unfulfilled state plans to build a traffic bypass around Route 140. Up to half his land could have been taken by proposed bypass routes. That made it certain the county would veto any site development plan he devised.

Gov. Parris Glendening finally killed the long-delayed bypass plan almost three years ago, claiming it conflicted with his Smart Growth program. Mr. Harris then sued Carroll County to buy his land or remove the bypass route plan so he can sell it.

The county has no money to compensate owners for a right of way, and the state surely won't. Other landowners in the path of the abandoned bypass route have similar claims.

But once the bypass route is erased, it will no longer be possible, even for future governors who could support the costly project.

Still, four decades is long enough to decide. Slim hopes for a future reversal don't warrant keeping the landowner on hold. If the picture should change, the state may revisit its bypass decision.But the bypass is dead for now.

Carroll officials should take the direct route and eliminate the bypass on county maps.

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