Carroll commissioners strengthen county's growth-control ordinance

Number of houses built each year will be limited

August 14, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After months of wrangling, Carroll's commissioners strengthened county growth-control measures yesterday to reduce the number of homes built each year and to deter housing developments away from areas with inadequate schools and public services.

The revisions to Carroll's concurrency management ordinance, enacted in 1998 to ensure growth does not outpace the county's ability to provide services, take effect immediately and are retroactive to July 1.

Nearly 700 homes are set for construction in the county - outside municipal limits - next year. It was unclear what impact the revisions will have on the overall number of homes to be constructed in future years.

The commissioners reached the unanimous decision after a public hearing and several meetings with town officials, who urged stronger measures.

"I hope the towns will follow suit and implement these same limits. That way we'll be planning according to the maximum the towns can build," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier.

The revisions approved by the commissioners will:

Reduce the number of lots a developer can record in any one subdivision to 50 every two years. Recordations precede obtaining building permits.

Reduce the number of building permits allowed per subdivision to 25 a year.

Limit the number of building permits allowed for houses per subdivision to 15 a year in areas considered critical because of crowded schools, overtaxed roads or water shortages.

County planners also will create a database that details the location and number of homes in each subdivision, including residential construction within the county's eight towns, to give them a better handle on residential construction.

However, under the revised law, several exceptions are not taken into account, including homes built on agricultural land.

Concerned about the ability to pay for the demands created by growth, Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge unsuccessfully sought to close loopholes by proposing counting every house that has a building permit.

"We don't know how much money we will have or how many facilities we can provide only three years from now for homes we have already OK'd," she said. "Budget projections are very tight. If our income continues to nose-dive, we won't be able to provide for those new houses."

Her colleagues disagreed, however, and her motion to eliminate exceptions was defeated 2-1.

"My analysis is that we are covered," said Frazier. "We have good planning and budget flexibility to provide. Our job is to prioritize."

Said Commissioner Donald I. Dell: "I am not changing the commitment made years ago to ag landowners. There's adequate facilities for the permits we have issued now."

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