Common-sense growth

October 28, 2005

The war over growth in Carroll County seems never-ending - and badly in need of a truce of common sense. It used to be that developers and their lawyers ran roughshod over Carroll's commissioners and planners. But after years of runaway, mismanaged growth, a new set of county commissioners took office in 2002 and began the very hard task of restoring balance by slowing down homebuilding so that the county's facilities - particularly schools, roads and water supplies - could catch up with the projects in the pipeline. This has been long overdue, to say the least.

But all along, the current Carroll commissioners have been under siege from developers - who this year won two victories in the court of Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway. In the most recent of his rulings, Judge Galloway last week ordered that crowded schools, under the county's adequate public facilities rules, shouldn't prevent a developer from building 105 new homes near Mount Airy. In July, the judge ruled that another builder could erect 254 townhouses in overcrowded Eldersburg - even threatening the commissioners with jail if they don't comply.

We're not sure what the developers want: Is it to sell pricey houses to families whose kids would have to go to overcrowded schools or to receive rich legal settlements from the county? Judge Galloway's rulings not only are technically arguable, they also ignore the larger public interest. Yes, Carroll should provide more space in its schools, but it doesn't yet have it because of serious errors by past commissioners, some of whom would have liked to do away with all land-use controls. The current commissioners are trying to correct those errors. They need time and some common sense from Judge Galloway.

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