Carroll officials call halt to new houses

Water deficit stirs county to stop building in south

May 17, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Faced with a shortage of water for residential development in South Carroll, the commissioners called a halt yesterday to home construction in the county's most-populous area through 2008.

With 62 water hookups available for homes and businesses through 2005, the commissioners said they had little choice but to stop residential building in South Carroll, which includes Eldersburg and Sykesville. The area has sustained Carroll's highest growth rate, and its population has nearly tripled in 25 years.

"We would have to tell a builder today that he couldn't do anything until 2009," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "We didn't expect to have a gap in water [supply]. These kind of actions cause a moratorium and that is not our intent."

The county is in a bind because its water treatment plant in South Carroll is operating at near-capacity. Plans for a second plant at Piney Run Lake have not won state approval.

Confusion exists as to the exact number of remaining hookups, but if the county approves all the recent requests, "no matter how we count, we could be close to zero," said Doug Myers, county director of public works.

Rather than allocate more water to new homes, the commissioners chose to reserve the supply for industrial prospects that might be interested in the area, particularly at Warfield, a business center planned along Route 32. The 96-acre site, once part of Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville, is expected to be a boon to economic development for the county. It promises more than 1,000 jobs, satellite college classrooms and a hotel.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said any available water must be reserved for industry

"We have to be able to tell businesses that we have water," Gouge said. "We don't want to cut ourselves off and not have the opportunity if something comes through."

Public water and sewers and the proximity of Interstate 70 make South Carroll attractive to industry, but the infrastructure must be in place if the county is to lure business, Gouge said.

The decision reached after lengthy debate yesterday means three proposed developments in Eldersburg - more than 100 homes - have been put on hold.

Projects approved may move forward. The number of homes in the pipeline was not readily available yesterday.

"If we have not already said yes to a project, then it is no," said Gouge. "No more can come into the pipeline. We cannot cut it so close that industry would not get the taps it needs."

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