Smart Growth report is critical

Group gives county D grades in seven of eight categories

`Very scary scenario'

Carroll County

October 10, 2001|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Like the naughtiest child in class, Carroll County again has been rapped on the knuckles for its alleged failure to pursue Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Smart Growth agenda.

The latest scolding is from the Baltimore Regional Partnership, an alliance of nonprofit organizations devoted to promoting Smart Growth principles. In a report card released yesterday, the partnership gave Carroll D grades in seven of eight growth-related categories - the worst grades of any county in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Carroll shows little apparent interest in containing growth to state-designated growth areas, the report said. According to projections obtained from Carroll's planning department, the report said 58 percent of growth between 2000 and 2020 will occur outside of state-designated areas. That would mean 11,215 homes in areas that are difficult to access for roads, sewers, water and other vital services, said representatives of the partnership. The next worst offender is Anne Arundel County, with 29 percent of its growth projected outside of designated areas.

Carroll's report card is the type a student might keep hidden in his or her backpack, said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, director of partnership member 1,000 Friends of Maryland. Schmidt-Perkins called overall development projections for the Baltimore area "a very, very scary scenario."

Commissioners' reaction

County Commissioner Donald I. Dell hadn't seen the report yesterday afternoon but wondered if the partnership has its facts straight.

"Let them say what they will," he said. "We're trying to do the best we can. Don't we have enough problems in this country without people picking on us for all these little issues? It's pathetic."

Added Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier, "The idea of Smart Growth as far as we're concerned is to concentrate growth around designated growth areas, and we've been doing that for 30 years and it's working. I think we invented Smart Growth."

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, however, called the report a wakeup call.

Gouge has often supported Glendening's Smart Growth ideas in opposition to Dell and Frazier.

"Maybe this will help our citizens realize that things are happening that shouldn't be happening," she said. "The problem is Donald and Robin really believe what they're doing is right. That's the difficult thing."

The county received a B grade for agricultural preservation, but Schmidt-Perkins said that didn't account for a zoning ordinance recently passed by Carroll commissioners that probably will allow more homes to be developed on farmland.

"That sort of turns everything they've accomplished on its head," she said. The new ordinance also has prompted concern among county planners and state officials, though Carroll leaders, including Dell, have said it won't have a great impact.

Past differences

Carroll has a long history of antagonism with Glendening that peaked two years ago when the commissioners rezoned Rash Farm near Woodbine to allow development of a golf community. Glendening objected to the Rash rezoning because it allowed a development in the middle of farmland, which goes against his plan that growth be directed to areas already developed.

In addition to receiving poor marks for its planning of new growth, Carroll's government earned D grades for environmental protection, road planning, comprehensive planning and support of town revitalization efforts. During yesterday's presentation, partnership members suggested the state stop funding roads that would promote development outside of designated areas. They mentioned the widening of Routes 32, 26, 97 and 24 and the extension of a Route 30 bypass around Manchester as long-term Carroll road projects that should not receive funding under Smart Growth.

`Not an affordable future'

The organization hopes that its study will pressure local governments, which ultimately control their zoning, to change their ways. "They need to recognize that this is not an affordable future," said Schmidt-Perkins, pointing to a map that showed the projected growth outside designated areas.

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