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Editorial: Controlled growth, such as proposed Sykesville development, needed in Carroll

While we understand the tendency to want to halt growth in one’s backyard and we feel for citizens who mobilize and find that their efforts have gone for naught, we have to agree with the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission’s position on a proposed seven-house development in Sykesville.

The community clearly is opposed to the planned development of seven, four-bedroom homes on 1-acre lots at 6828 White Rock Road, just north of Obrecht Road, by two developers — Marriottsville-based Peter Podolack, Clear Ridge Developers and Reisterstown-based Mark Powers from M & J Capital. Concerned residents circulated a petition and apparently got 400 signatures in opposition of the development that they submitted at the planning and zoning meeting of June 18.

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At the meeting, community member William Sullivan stood up and asked the board, “As the public, how many more signatures do you need us to get, to get this stopped?”

Board chairman Richard J. Soisson responded by saying, “The number of signatures, as far as I know, is not going to make a difference on a project that falls within all of the guidelines that Carroll County has. This isn’t a major subdivision, these are seven lots. A lot of people live across the street from a lot of subdivisions, and this is what you have in any county, you have growth.”

Clearly, that response didn’t make those at the meeting happy. Another community member said: “We moved to Carroll County to have a rural atmosphere — it’s becoming Columbia, Randallstown; it’s not good.”

Actually, Carroll County is not becoming Columbia or Randallstown, whatever that means. There has been almost no growth recently. According to U.S. Census data, Carroll’s population increased by 30.7 percent in the 1960s, 39.6 percent in the 1970s, 28 percent in the 1980s, 22.3 percent in the 1990s, and 10.8 percent in the first 10 years of the 21st century. Since 2010, however, growth has essentially stopped, with an estimated increase of barely more than 1,000 people for the slowest period of growth in the county in more than a century.

That’s not surprising. Water availability and other factors limit new housing to only a few areas in Carroll. And, for the most part, the housing that’s on the market is too expensive for young people to afford, so the children of those who moved here between from 1990-2010 have largely moved to other areas, including Pennsylvania.

Certainly, stagnant growth is considered a good thing by many of the residents who moved “out to the country” over the past 40 or 50 years. But most of them not only don’t want any new neighbors, they also don’t want tax increases, the combination of which makes it more and more difficult to fund services or infrastructure or upkeep to schools. The numbers are only going to get more and more difficult to sustain.

No one is suggesting a return to 1970s-era growth in Carroll, but adding a few small housing developments here and there will help to increase the tax base and, for the most part, will not significantly alter the character of the county. Sykesville Councilman Mark Dyer said as much at the June planning meeting.

“I don’t believe that we can wall ourselves off and never have any growth at all,” Dyer said, while rightly noting that the growth must be controlled.

The seven-house subdivision in Sykesville didn’t require action at the meeting as it was only a concept plan review, according to Clayton Black, chief of the county Bureau of Development Review, but a preliminary plan is scheduled to be submitted to the planning commission, at which point the commission will decide whether to take action.

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