Housing plans allowed to bypass growth freeze weighed in Carroll

Review panel considers proposals for 113 homes


December 30, 2003|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Two development plans that were the subject of a judge's order dealing a significant blow to Carroll County's growth freeze moved forward yesterday, when a county committee reviewed the proposals.

The preliminary plans, which call for construction of more than 100 homes in the Mount Airy area, drew concerns about the capacity of water for firefighting. Progress on the plans filed by Forty West Builders Inc. had been halted by the county's growth freeze, but a Circuit Court judge ordered the county to process the proposals because they had received certificates showing that the development would not strain county facilities.

Later yesterday, another developer asked Carroll County Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway for a similar ruling that would allow a proposal for a 49-lot subdivision near Westminster to move ahead. Galloway did not rule on that request from Michigan-based Pulte Homes Inc.

The Court of Special Appeals denied Dec. 18 the county's request that it suspend injunctions requiring Carroll to process development proposals affected by the freeze. An appeal on the injunctions is pending before the state's second-highest court.

Galloway issued the injunctions sought by developers Nov. 13 - ordering the county to move forward on plans filed by Kohler Development Co. of Eldersburg and Ellicott City-based Forty West Builders. Since then, several similar cases have been filed.

Yesterday's review before the subdivision advisory committee - a preliminary step before consideration by the county's planning commission - dealt with Forty West's two adjacent subdivisions, which would add 113 houses outside Mount Airy, beginning in 2005.

"We're pleased the plans are going through, and the county is doing what it's supposed to do," said Stephen Costello, owner of Forty West, after the meeting.

One proposed subdivision, Ridgewood Estates, would add 52 single-family homes on Leisher Road at Route 27. The other, Eagles Crest, would add 61 single-family homes on the west side of Boteler Road, off Route 27.

As part of its review, county agencies - including engineering, forestry and landscaping, storm water management, water resources, planning and the Health Department - raised technical issues and concerns about Forty West's preliminary plans.

One such issue involved water capacity for fire emergencies in the two developments, said Bruce Waldron, a coordinator with the county's Bureau of Development Review who is overseeing Forty West's two projects. The need for water might require building an underground tank, Waldron said.

The Subdivision Advisory Committee agencies must approve the plans before they head to the planning commission, said Stephen A. Ford, committee chairman and a development review supervisor. That could take several months to a year, depending on how quickly the developers work to resolve the committee's concerns, Ford said.

Two residents also expressed concerns about the project's compliance with adequate public facilities standards.

Pat Rockinberg, 41, a member of Mount Airy's planning commission, questioned whether services such as schools and roads could accommodate the residential growth, just outside of the municipality.

Forty West received a certificate from the county last year saying its division plans would not strain school, road or water capacities.

Rockinberg said the county should take a closer look, and that Mount Airy and county officials should work together to coordinate the development plans.

"I'm concerned about when they received" the certificate, Rockinberg said after the meeting. "We have 600 homes in the pipeline for the town."

Another resident, Grant Berry, expressed concerns over traffic near Ridgewood Estates.

Ford, the committee chairman, said a traffic study in the works should give the county a better idea of what improvements would be needed.

Pulte Homes went to court to request an injunction against the county's enforcement of its growth freeze.

Like the Kohler and Forty West projects, Pulte's project, called Clearfield, received a certificate saying it would not strain county infrastructure such as schools, roads and water supplies.

The project would add 49 houses on a 95-acre parcel on the southwest side of Old Westminster Pike, outside Westminster, beginning in 2005.

Five similar injunctions cases are expected to go before Galloway on Friday.

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