Inventory sought for building lots

Farm development rights, adequate-facilities law amendments may clash

`We need to count'

County lacks information on potential housing land that affects infrastructure

January 15, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The county commissioners will hold a public hearing tonight on proposed amendments to the county's adequate-facilities law - amendments that they all seem to oppose.

Their quandary centers on possible infringements on the development rights of farmers. The amendments, which were requested by the commissioners, would apply countywide to all building lots and would add years to the development process for farmers.

"I just want to know how many lots and where they are," Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said. "I will not support anything that tinkers with farmers' development rights."

The commissioners' efforts to get a handle on growth have been stymied by the lack of a complete inventory of building lots. They have asked planners to establish a database of all such parcels.

"We need to count all lots," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "If they are going to affect schools and roads, we have to figure out how to make it work."

In an attempt to establish an inventory, the commissioners opted to include in the count all minor subdivisions in the county's agricultural area and any other single lots that farmers might carve from their land.

Those lots have been excluded from previous counts as an accommodation the county makes to farmers who, more than 25 years ago, lost much of the development value of their land to zoning regulations designed to preserve agriculture.

Instead of allowing one building lot for every acre, the county reduced zoning to one lot for every 20 acres.

The county promised to expedite farmers' development requests by not subjecting their lots to as lengthy a development review or to adequate-facilities tests, which are designed to prevent residential growth from overwhelming schools, roads and the water supply. The proposed amendments would eliminate those preferences.

Farmers often sell their lots to help finance farm operations.

"We have to keep farmers in business and sometimes that means he has to sell off lots," said Wayne Barnes, a farmer and chairman of the county relations committee of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.

While minor subdivisions with three or fewer homes are scattered throughout the county, they could have an impact on planning and growth, Gouge said.

"If there are enough in any one school district, you could throw things off by several classrooms," she said. "We have to know how to plan for schools."

The commissioners said they would hold the hearing at 7 p.m. in Room 003 of the County Office Building in Westminster.

"We may change our minds on how the ordinance is written, but we have to let people know how we are thinking and make them part of the process," Gouge said. Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. did not comment during the public meeting.

After the hearing, Minnich said he would ask for whatever adjustments are needed. He stressed that he would not enact any law that infringes on farmers' rights.

In other action, the commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to expand the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission from five to seven members.

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