Carroll's population is projected to reach 200,000 by 2015, five years ahead of the estimate on which the county's master plan is based and quickly enough to strain the county's ability to keep pace with services, planning officials said yesterday.
While the county's adequate facilities law sets a goal of limiting growth to 6,000 units over any six-year period, that target has been exceeded by nearly 700 in the past five years alone, said Steven C. Horn, county planning director. His office looked at projects in the approval pipeline, an estimate of growth in the county's municipalities and other projections to reach its estimate of population growth.
The projections raise the question of whether the county would be equipped to meet the increased demand for government services, such as roads and schools, Horn said.
"We're outstripping our ability to meet those demands," he said. "What will this do for school construction, roads? ... If we accelerate at this degree, we'll start seeing congestion on county roads."
Commissioner Dean L. Minnich said the impact of growth on county roads is evident now.
"A few weeks ago, I ran into congestion in Westminster," he said. "I sat in my car between Bond and Main streets because there was gridlock. I sat there and chuckled a little bit. Here we are."
Horn issued the estimates as part of a status report on his office's work with the county's yearlong freeze on residential growth. While the freeze is in effect, Horn and other county planning officials are revamping the county's growth-control ordinance, known as "concurrency management."
The county commissioners adopted the deferral on new subdivision plans in June, saying that growth was beginning to overwhelm county schools, water systems, roads and fire stations. About 90 projects, totaling 1,700 units, are affected by the freeze.
As part of the county's growth law review, Horn said planners are looking at changes to the way the county measures adequate facilities, developing a database to track growth and revising development fees.
Horn explained how growth in recent years has exceeded the ceiling described in the adequate facilities law. He also said that by 2008, that level would be exceeded by more than 3,000.
Planners used the development projections to figure the estimate for population growth. The county's current population is about 160,000.
"From a planning perspective, what these numbers demonstrate is that it will be increasingly difficult to provide an adequate level of service ... [that] the public demands," Horn said after his presentation.