Plan for growth outside town cause of disagreement

Commissioners object to panel's proposal

Hampstead

February 21, 2003|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The Carroll commissioners moved yesterday toward rejecting the county planning commission's growth plan for the area immediately around Hampstead, a decision that could lead to a broader debate between the two panels about county planning and zoning practices.

The commissioners agreed to schedule a work session with the county planning staff to learn more about the plan for the Hampstead area.

The commissioners said that after that session they probably would ask the planning commission to reconsider its stance against rezoning any properties around Hampstead from residential to agricultural designations.

Such rezonings were a significant part of the planning staff's proposal for the Hampstead area.

But several members of the appointed planning commission argued that the zoning changes would unfairly drop land values for scores of property owners.

They approved their revised version of the Hampstead plan - without the rezonings - in November.

That didn't suit the county's planning staff.

Planning Director Steven C. Horn told the commissioners yesterday that without the rezonings, the plan would not accomplish its goal of restricting future growth to a tight perimeter around the town limits.

"The scope of the changes between what staff recommended and what the planning commission ultimately approved is significant enough that we think its worth going back to the planning commission and asking them to take another bite of the apple," Horn said.

Horn asked the commissioners to support his staff's recommendations as part of a more sweeping change in planning philosophy.

He said he wants his planners to consider zoning changes around the county's eight municipalities because such changes can help steer growth toward town centers and away from more rural land.

Many properties near Hampstead have residential zonings based on the notion that the town one day would extend its water and sewer systems.

But the town has no plans to extend water or sewer service. So the zonings should be changed to reflect the absence of public water or sewer service, planners argue.

Such zoning changes would reduce the possibility that houses would be built where infrastructure is unavailable, they say.

That philosophy conflicts with ideas espoused by some members of the planning panel, who regard existing zoning as a promise to property owners.

Commission member Ed Wheatley said he was "not happy at all" with the proposed rezonings.

The commissioners have said they agree more with their planning staff than with planning commission members such as Wheatley.

But they cannot ignore the planning commission's recommendations for the Hampstead plan.

The county planning staff researches land-use issues around the town, then drafts a plan.

The planning commission reviews that plan, revises it and passes the revisions to the commissioners as a recommendation.

The commissioners can approve the recommendations, return the plan to the planning commission or do nothing. They cannot rewrite the plan.

The comprehensive planning process is a periodic review of land-use designations for all the properties in and around a town.

Hampstead and county planners have spent almost four years drafting a document that outlines land-use philosophies and specific designations for individual properties.

The understanding has been that Hampstead will have final say on properties within town lines, and the county will have final say on properties outside town lines.

The Hampstead Town Council and the planning commission have agreed on the part of the plan that covers zoning changes within town limits.

As for the planning commission's stance against rezoning property outside of town, Hampstead Town Manager Ken Decker said, "We thought that was just kind of silly and we ignored it."

Decker said he would support the commissioners in their attempts to wrangle a different vote from the planning commission but said the Town Council probably would stay out of the fray and move forward with zoning changes within Hampstead borders.

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