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Carroll commissioner candidates take on question of maintaining rural heritage

Property rights has been one of the biggest issues the current five-member Carroll County Board of Commissioners has had to deal with since taking office.

There are some that believe a property owner may do whatever they want with their property while others believe the wishes of the adjacent property owners and community should play a factor in what is allowed to be done on private property.

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The development of land brings with it more tax revenue for the county, which wants to encourage growth without changing Carroll's rural heritage or creating urban sprawl.

The Times asked all 20 of the candidates for the board of commissioners: How would you balance property rights with economic development while maintaining Carroll's rural heritage, without creating urban sprawl in the county?

Here are the responses from the candidates who chose to answer the question:

District 1

Cynthia L. Foley, Republican: Chose not to answer the question.

Robin Bartlett Frazier, Republican, incumbent: Property owners know best how to use their property. Complete the comprehensive rezoning. Only rezone where property owners are in agreement. Scrap the land designation concept which tends towards Pathways type situations without landowners consent. Be consistent. Stop planning and re-planning and let the market dictate according to the current growth patterns and zoning. Protect the right to farm and keep planning local. In America people should be able to purchase homes on any size lot they would like.

Jackie Jones, Democrat: Encourage more efficient development and planning. Would encourage each county department to meet with each other and emphasize Carroll County wants to remain a rural area, without urban sprawl.

Tina Mawhinney, Republican: I think we are doing ok so far.

Stephen Albert Wantz, Republican: Planning is the key to growth. Our state has a viable sustainable community program which many municipalities are participating in. This encompasses conserving resources, providing green space, parks for recreation and agriculture, options for transportation,and reducing waste just to name a few. Smart growth should also be visited and not categorized as negative as there are some positive ideas that are buried within. There are several aspects in its principles and regulations which could be utilized by our talented county staff. Our staff working with our municipalities could use many of these ideas to enhance our downtown areas. It is important to use as many resources as possible to reach positive results which includes communicating with one another to ensure our residential and economic future sustainability.

District 2

Brian K. DiMaggio, Republican: I am so tired of central planners who keep pushing "planned communities" and who see our beautiful rural neighborhoods as a problem and want to fix them. I have stood strong with our citizens for years to fight against things like the Pathways plan and PlanMaryland that would have prohibited most of the beautiful rural homes in our county as sprawl. Carroll County is known as a place where someone like me with 6 kids and a dog, can build a large house with some land around it, and not be forced to live crammed up in some planned neighborhood. I intend to fight against this new "Carroll 2030" plan that looks as bad as Pathways. I support a small increase in commercial zoning but will continue the respectful policy that our current commissioners have enacted that prohibits rezoning any property without the owner's consent.

William Niner, Republican: I support property rights. I don't think that the government should tell someone what to do with their property. To prevent urban sprawl in the county we need to protect the family farms in Carroll County and one way to do that is with agricultural preservation. We need to promote the use of existing buildings that are vacant instead of always building new buildings. Let's use the building structures we already have in existence.

C. Richard Weaver, Republican: Our present Agricultural Land Preservation program allows for the property owner to decide the future of large tracts of land. We need to balance these large agricultural area with areas of housing growth without infringing on individual property rights. We need zoning laws that are not unduly harsh on the property owner.

District 3

Mae Alexander, Unaffiliated: Chose not to answer the question.

Dennis Frazier, Republican: That's what good zoning is for. Good zoning helps keep property values high. It also gives people the right to develop their property within the guidelines of the zoning district. Zoning needs to be updated at times — but only if the change helps the community where the zoning change is being requested (and fits in) as well as the county.

Matthew P. Holbert, Republican: I believe that there is a great imbalance with regards to economic development here in Carroll (and in this country), and I would do my best to reduce the economic development in this county, as well as curb back the urban sprawl that may be apparent to anyone who has lived here for more than two decades.

Lyn Mallick, Republican: It is virtually irrelevant what my position is on this question. The current Board of County Commissioners is in the process of adopting the Master Plan which dictates how this balance of rural heritage and growth is to be addressed over the next 6 years. I implore all citizens to review this Master Plan and contact your current commissioner with your reaction.

Kenneth J. Mercer, Republican: I would work with the Planning and Zoning Dept, the Carroll 2030 Committee and land owners to find a the balance needed to move forward with economic development and not hesitate to make a final decision as to how to move forward once presented with the collected information.

Dave Roush, Republican, incumbent: The Carroll County Master Plan is the mechanism to balance all these interests. The plan identifies areas that are appropriately located for economic development. Those areas are so designated if the property owner wants the land to have the potential for such use. I have supported the Agricultural Land Preservation program as the appropriate way to balance property rights with the community's desire to maintain its rural heritage. I do not believe we have created "urban sprawl" or are likely to do so within our master plan.

Maria Warburton, Democrat: Chose not to answer the question.

District 4

Barbara Joan Biller, Republican: Balancing property rights, appropriate economic development, preserving the rural/agricultural landscape and preventing sprawl is managed through county zoning designations. Land use and zoning regulations are stipulated in the Code of Public Local Laws and Carroll County has a well-performing structure of government departments and commissions that allow for public interaction to manage the development process. Monitoring, review and control of the processes with appropriate oversight insure that the county growth is in concert with what the community wants. Each opportunity for changing the landscape (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.) must go through the development process and be reviewed and approved prior to dirt being moved. There are appropriate checks and balances in place between the public and local government to resolve any issues of property rights.

Richard Rothschild, Republican, incumbent: This is a delicate issue. The people of District 4 want to KEEP CARROLL COUNTRY. For me, PROPERTY RIGHTS means STABLE ZONING, and it means that government does not use its police powers to accelerate growth, nor prevent growth. It is not government's job to pick winners and losers. Of course, in District 4, water limitations are the number 1 "throttle". More water means more growth, more business, and more higher density residential development. Less water creates increased dependencies on well and septic. This helps maintain "large-lot" development that is less intensive. If you are a business, you probably want more water and more growth. If you are a homeowner, you probably want less growth. My job is to discern the correct balance while respecting everyone's constitutional property rights. At times, this is very difficult to do.

Sean Shaffer, Republican: See my answer regarding Ag Preservation. While I support the property owner's rights, once the land is sold to a developer it then becomes an issue of the developer's rights. The rights of the private landowner and the corporate developer is not the same and growth must be restrained.

District 5

Cathey Allison, Republican: Chose not to answer the question.

Doug Howard, Republican, incumbent: My record over the past four years should be the clearest indication of how I navigate the challenges of protecting property rights while considering the needs of the community. It is important to remember that rights are not meant to be balanced or mitigated or negotiated by government they are to be protected. We currently have a commissioner that talks a good game on property rights and then advocates for sign restraints, excessive limitations on property uses, opposition to housing forms that he doesn't like and even creating "community rights" or zones to protect whole areas. These ideas are the opposite of property rights, and I oppose them. I believe that a good land use plan during the master plan process, careful execution of zoning laws, good communication with the community and allowing our boards and processes to work as intended is the best approach to this challenging issue.

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