Report proves mayors correct

Dell apologizes for saying towns cause rapid housing growth

More new houses in county

March 17, 2002|By Brenda J. Buote and Mary Gail Hare | Brenda J. Buote and Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The mayors of Carroll's eight towns are bristling at the Board of County Commissioners' recent suggestion that the municipalities are responsible for the county's rapid residential growth - a charge that building permit records do not support.

Nearly 1,400 single- and multi-family homes were built in Carroll County last year - about 400 more than the annual maximum goal of 1,000. Of those, town permit records show 519 were built within towns; the remaining 900 or so were built in unincorporated areas that are controlled by the county.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who often has criticized the municipalities for allowing brisk growth within their boundaries, apologized to town leaders in an interview Friday for his earlier remarks and called for a more open town-county dialogue.

"I have said the problem is with the towns, but we just got a report [from the county permits department] that shows the problem is with the county," Dell said. "I apologize for that. Obviously, we need to really take a hard look at what's going on in the county."

The mayors agree, and are urging the commissioners to work with the towns to limit development, which they blame for school crowding and overburdened water systems.

"We need to do everything possible to facilitate a meaningful dialogue with the commissioners," said Westminster Mayor Kevin E. Dayhoff, who wrote a letter to the commissioners suggesting that a joint task force of town and county officials be formed "to build a cooperative foundation."

"The cornerstone of growth management must be directing development toward existing infrastructure, which is found in our municipalities," said the letter, dated March 15. All of the county's mayors are expected to sign the three-paragraph missive before it is sent to the commissioners, Dayhoff said.

The commissioners urged officials from the towns last week to help slow growth. Concerns about water shortages and crowded classrooms prompted the request, Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said.

"When I suggested we all look at growth and try to control it for the future, I was not trying to place the fault at the door of the towns," said Gouge, who said that she favors the creation of a joint task force. "Looking at the figures, it's clear that Carroll County's growth has been out of control - not in the municipalities, but outside the towns."

To pare the growth to acceptable levels, Carroll Planning Director Jeanne S. Joiner said county building permits would have to be restricted to 25 per year per subdivision; today, as many as 50 homes may be built in each subdivision each year.

"The county needs to get its own house in order before the commissioners ask the towns to buckle down," said Haven N. Shoemaker Jr., vice president of the Hampstead Town Council.

Said Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman: "The [county] master plan says that growth should be in the towns and not in the agriculture or conservation areas. I think the commissioners have lost their way."

Taneytown Mayor Henry C. Heine added: "The towns' contributions are not creating a burden. The county should be encouraging growth at the town level and discouraging it at the county level."

Gouge said she called for open discourse between the county and towns so that a comprehensive planning strategy could be developed.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier did not attend the board's meeting with the mayors, but said she believes market forces should determine when and where homes are built.

"I'm always open to dialogue, but I don't think it's government's job to try to control the market," Frazier said.

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