Bill aims to speed building of new roads

Officials want developers to fund connector arteries

Carroll County

February 02, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Throughout last year's election campaign, Carroll residents told the candidates for county commissioner that they were tired of waiting for the state to relieve pressure on the county's increasingly clogged main roads.

In response, the new board of commissioners has asked the county's delegation in Annapolis to submit a bill that would give the county government power to recoup from developers the cost of building roads connecting residential areas.

Given such funding power, the commissioners say, they wouldn't have to wait as long to build roads that would relieve stress on main roads such as Route 140.

"We need the authority to put in pieces of roads where they're needed," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich. "And this would help us do that without making taxpayers foot all of the bill somewhere down the line."

The county's legislators were reluctant at first to submit the proposal but agreed to proceed after hearing further explanation of the commissioners' intentions.

Legislators said they support the proposal largely because it would eliminate confusion for homeowners by allowing the county to build connector roads ahead of development instead of leaving projects unfinished for years.

"I don't think we were really reluctant, just a little uncertain what it meant," said Del. Carmen Amedori, a Westminster Republican. "We wanted to make sure we knew what it would do, but after we heard a little more, it seemed like something that would help the homeowners."

The proposal would not give the commissioners any new power to build roads or additional spending powers.

Each road project would still have to go through the same approval and hearing process before becoming part of the county's master plan.

But the commissioners say the proposed law would make it easier for them to proceed with road projects that are in the master plan but have remained dormant for years.

The commissioners have traditionally waited for developers to pay for such roads after building houses along the planned routes. Under the new proposal, the commissioners would build the roads before the houses were built and then demand compensation from developers when the houses were built.

The commissioners have not specified where they would use their new powers if the bill were passed.

The proposal needs General Assembly approval because many of the commissioners' powers must be defined by state law.

The policy would help prevent conflicts between the county and homeowners over road construction, Amedori said.

Too often, she said, people live on dead-end roads for years with the assumption that the roads will never be opened, when they have always been intended as connectors. Residents then become enraged when developers obliterate their cul-de-sacs.

With the county filling in roads before development, Amedori said, the mystery around such plans would dissipate.

"That's why I voted for it," she said. "I see it as an enlightenment for potential homebuyers."

Del. Susan W. Krebs, an Eldersburg Republican, said conflicts over roads arise frequently in her South Carroll district and that the proposed law would help eliminate confusion over where roads will be built.

She said she doesn't think the law would inspire a blitz of road building but would be a way to help the commissioners build roads ahead of development.

"I think it allows the county to be more proactive," she said.

Minnich agreed, saying: "I don't think we're going to go down in history as the great road builders. This is just another tool that will help us put the planning process on the table so there will be fewer surprises for the average citizen."

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