The Freedom Area Citizens Council could not have asked for better news from the Carroll County commissioners, who promised them more water, better roads, a new senior center and possibly a satellite county office.
In a meeting with the council Thursday, the commissioners vowed to continue their efforts to improve the quality of life in South Carroll, also known as the Freedom area, the most populous and rapidly growing section of the county.
Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge began the meeting with details of an agreement signed with Baltimore that day. The pact will allow the county to double the size of its water treatment plant on the city-owned Liberty Reservoir and increase the water supply to the more than 20,000 South Carroll public utility customers.
"We hand-carried the agreement back to Baltimore as soon as the commissioners signed it," said Douglas Myers, the county director of public works.
A series of wells could also be built soon on state property to further supplement the area that experiences seasonal water shortages
"You should have plenty of water in the future," Gouge said.
Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. added a note of caution, stressing the increased water supply is to meet present needs, not to spur development. Water shortages in South Carroll have forced the commissioners to limit building permits.
"As soon as the wells come on line, developers will be lining up," he said. "We are on your side. Our approach is to slow growth. Do all you can to show up and have a voice at planning meetings and zoning hearings."
The commissioners also advised residents to attend court hearings, in response to their concerns about a proposed 254-unit project on Kali Drive in Eldersburg. After the planning commission denied the project because of inadequate facilities, the developer sued the county. A Feb. 3 hearing is scheduled in county Circuit Court.
"There is no water allocated for this site," Gouge said.
The board highlighted its successes and recapped efforts -- including the county's financial participation -- to spur the state to make improvements to Routes 26 and 32, the area's main roads.
"We have salted the mine with $2.5 million of your money," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich. "We are participating, and we are invested in these projects."
The commissioners also detailed plans for a new South Carroll Senior Center, which the county might build with a gym. They discussed possibly locating a satellite county office in Eldersburg, "hopefully within the next year or so," Jones said. State police and sheriff's deputies are currently staffing a satellite police department in Eldersburg.
"We have met as many challenges as we can without breaking the bank," Minnich said.
The commissioners asked the residents to support their efforts to enact a 1 percent transfer tax, their strategy to help fund capital improvements without burdening property owners. The tax would be levied as properties are settled.
"It is a tool to ease the tax burden, an estimated $7.5 million next year that won't come out of your pocket," Minnich said.
The county delegation, which has scheduled a public hearing at 9 a.m. Saturday in the County Office Building in Westminster, would have to sponsor the proposed tax in the General Assembly. Carroll's legislators have said they are awaiting public comment before deciding on the issue.