Retreat made on growth decision

Commissioners decide long-range plan request is drastic, unnecessary

July 03, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The Carroll commissioners retreated yesterday from a tentative step to limit residential growth in the county through mid-2008.

Less than a week after asking county planners to form a plan to bar applications for subdivisions of more than three homes over the next six years, Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier said that such a move was drastic and unnecessary.

They said the county's laws prevent residential growth from overwhelming basic services such as schools, water and roads.

"The goal is to slow down growth, so we can provide adequate public facilities, and we're doing that," Frazier said. "Why we want to declare our policies a failure is a mystery to me."

Frazier and Dell said growth would be slowed by a measure they voted for last week that, if passed in final form, would limit individual subdivisions to 25 building permits a year, down from 50.

They argued that if they can persuade the county's eight municipalities to abide by the same restriction, Carroll's growth struggles will abate.

The third commissioner, Julia Walsh Gouge, said she was distressed by her colleagues' reversal of Thursday's action.

Gouge questioned whether the county should ask its towns to alter their growth policies unless the county takes substantive action.

"We need to look at ourselves," she said.

"We have," Frazier replied.

"We're not," Gouge answered with apparent disgust.

The commissioners have spent the past several months discussing proposals for growth control. With schools crowded and water capacity strained in South Carroll, residents there and around the county say growth must be slowed. Candidates and political observers say growth issues will dominate this fall's county elections.

The commissioners have recently focused on bringing the county in line with its goal, first stated in 1997, of limiting growth to 1,000 building permits a year.

But Frazier and Dell said yesterday that the goal might be unenforceable and unnecessary. Dell has said that he would favor changing the 1,000-permit restriction from a goal to a hard cap, but he backed away from that stance yesterday, wondering if such a limit would survive a legal challenge.

Developers would fight the passage of such a hard cap, said Richard Hull, owner of Carroll Land Services Inc., an engineering and surveying firm that works with major developers across Carroll.

As long as adequate school, water and other capacities exist, Hull said, the county has little legal standing to bar new subdivisions.

Factor of land prices

Hull said the discussion of growth caps over the past several months has driven lot prices up 25 percent across the county.

Frazier said that between existing laws, which require adequate facilities to be in place before new homes can be built, and the proposed laws that would limit subdivisions to 25 building permits a year, the county is doing all it should to manage growth.

The towns must be responsible for further limits, she said, repeating a notion that has made town officials bristle over the past several months.

Though the county has approved lots for about 2,000 homes between now and 2007, county planners project that the eight municipalities will allow far more than that over the period.

Want focus on towns

The commissioners want growth concentrated in the towns, but say that most of the towns must do better at controlling growth because new housing burdens schools and other county amenities.

The commissioners said they would send letters to all the Carroll mayors and town councils, inviting them to an as-yet- unscheduled meeting on growth issues.

"That's the best we can do now, take our proposals to the towns and see if they will cooperate with us," Dell said.

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