Commissioners discuss plans for tighter controls on growth

Town officials, residents gather to hear proposals

July 19, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Looking to solve problems generated by Carroll's burgeoning growth, about 70 town leaders and residents met with the county commissioners last night to discuss proposals to limit residential development.

The commissioners unveiled proposed revisions to Carroll's growth-management ordinance, which was created in 1998. That ordinance set limits on residential construction - 1,000 homes a year for six years - to ensure that development would not outpace the county's ability to provide adequate infrastructure. The county has exceeded that limit by more than 1,000 homes.

Terri Jones, county attorney, spent nearly an hour last night explaining the revisions, which would decrease the number of building permits allowed each year and limit construction in areas where infrastructure would be inadequate.

Several town officials had complained about the revisions.

"You're ignoring the problem of state roads. A lot of the intersections with state roads have been near failure the last eight years, and they are creating a real problem with town roads," said Manchester Mayor Christopher B. D'Amario.

The commissioners say they cannot force the state to improve its highways and cannot afford to pay for the work.

"Even if we wanted to provide the relief, we could not," Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said.

Frazier and Commissioner Donald I. Dell first blamed the growth on the county's eight towns, whose officials quickly provided statistics that forced the commissioners to stop pointing fingers.

Dell revived the issue last night when he said, "The big problem comes when the towns reach out and take our farms and build houses on them."

Frank Johnson, Mount Airy Town Council president, bristled at Dell's comment. "It's not a question of reaching out and grabbing land. These are applicants who have asked the town to annex them," he said.

Several meetings between county and municipal planners have been held in the past two months but have produced little more than dialogue. The commissioners organized last night's session to gather the towns' ideas on managing growth and to share information with the municipalities.

The commissioners asked each town to review its growth policies during the meeting.

"We are not afraid of lawsuits, and we are not afraid to challenge developers to help our communities," said Hampstead Town Councilman Larry H. Hentz Jr.

Johnson, who has been promoting growth management, outlined six proposals for controlling development, including rescinding construction permits for areas where infrastructure is inadequate.

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