Pair seek thaw in growth freeze

They say subdividing land would fulfill parent's will

Financial strain claimed

Finksburg

April 16, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

With less than two months remaining in the county's year-long development freeze, the Carroll County commissioners heard another petition for an exemption yesterday.

Ronald and Laura Abbott of Finksburg told the commissioners that the inability to move forward on their housing project has put a strain on their finances.

They want to subdivide their 65-acre property into 10 lots and distribute four lots to Ronald Abbott's siblings as part of his late mother's will.

Because three homes exist on the property, they want to sell the remaining three lots to pay for costs associated with the subdivision process.

The three commissioners are expected to make a decision next week.

Steven C. Horn, the county's planning director, recommended that the commissioners deny the exemption request for the single-family subdivision called Abbott Acres, pointing to projected overcrowding at nearby Shiloh Middle School in Hampstead.

The growth freeze allows exemptions for severe economic hardship; assisted-living, senior and disabled housing projects; and properties that might be annexed by the county's towns.

The commissioners have granted at least four such requests out of 11 petitions filed since the growth freeze interrupted progress on about 1,700 residential lots that had passed early stages of the county's development review process.

The freeze, which expires in June, also halted acceptance of new residential subdivision projects.

The commissioners imposed the freeze so the county could revamp its adequate public facilities law, which is designed to prevent residential growth from overwhelming schools, roads, water systems and emergency services.

Although there have been few requests for exemptions, some developers have challenged the growth freeze in court.

A Carroll circuit judge granted four developers temporary relief from the freeze, forcing the county to process their plans. The county is appealing all the rulings.

Yesterday, the Abbotts told the commissioners they are subdividing the property as part of Ronald Abbott's late mother's will.

The money from the sale would pay for the costs the couple has incurred as part of the subdivision planning process, he said.

The couple has refinanced their home twice to pay for the estate's debts, Laura Abbott said.

The Abbotts did not specify their finances during yesterday's hearing, and they declined to comment on them after the meeting.

"These folks are trying to satisfy the will," said Kevin Small, a land planner with Frederick Ward Associates who is working on the Abbotts' project. "The three lots sold would pay for the subdivision costs. ... We have not been paid for a year."

The county's Comptroller Department examined the Abbott's finances and found that the Abbotts did not qualify for an economic hardship classification, Horn said.

"It's a strict standard," Horn said. "There needs to be evidence of severe financial hardship. I don't think [this] meets the test."

Commissioner Dean L. Minnich asked whether the Abbotts' other family members would sell the land to developers.

Laura Abbott said they would not. She also pointed out that schools would not be affected because her relatives have grown children.

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