A zoning change granted late Friday will enable descendants of Charles Carroll of Carrolton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, to build hundreds of new homes on a portion of Doughoregan Manor, their Colonial-era Ellicott City estate, while preserving the rest of the 892-acre property.
The Howard County Council is due to vote Thursday on the final element of the complex arrangement: a contract that lays out all the elements of the deal between Camilla and Philip D. Carroll and the county. Under the deal, the Carrolls would preserve all but the development land and would donate 36 acres to the county to expand Kiwanis-Walla Park on Frederick Road near U.S. 40.
Despite opposition from some local residents, the Howard County zoning board voted unanimously to approve rezoning 221 acres for 325 homes in the northeast corner of the estate, which sits between Frederick Road and Route 108. The County Council, whose members serve as the zoning board, has already approved extending public utilities to the land and a deal to place 500 acres into the county's Agricultural Preservation program in exchange for more than $19 million over two decades.
The new utility services were the legal basis for their decision, they said, after two hours of arguments. Since public utilities were not allowed on the land when the last round of comprehensive rezoning was done in 2004, the recent decision to allow water and sewer service there means the current rural zoning is now a "mistake,' requiring rezoning. Board member Courtney Watson, who as a councilwoman represents the area including Doughoregan, said the evidence of mistake was "irrefutable."
Earlier, two attorneys and three residents argued that there was no mistake and that the entire case amounts to a deal between the county and the Carrolls at their expense. Attorneys opposed to the rezoning argued that the county contrived the entire scenario to manufacture a legal mistake where none existed.
"The only thing that's changed [since 2004] is that the Carrolls want to develop their property," said resident Christina Delmont-Small. The opponents have 30 days to appeal in Circuit Court.
The critics live along the eastern edge of Doughoregan Manor, nearest to the proposed homes. They fear traffic and school crowding and say the agreement carries too few protections for wastewater treatment expenses. They also said they resent what they feel is the county's eagerness to help the Carrolls, to residents' detriment. The family is famously private and does not allow the public to see or visit the nearly 300-year-old estate and manor house.
The Carrolls have said they need the money from the sale of development rights and the new home project to restore historic buildings and to preserve the estate, which once covered over 10,000 acres, for future generations of their family.
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