The county plans to hire a consultant to study whether providing areas in southwest Carroll with public water and sewer systems is practical and could accommodate higher-density residential development and industrial and commercial uses.
The study is part of the Department of Planning's comprehensive land-use analysis for southwest Carroll, a 50-square-mile area bounded by Route 26, Route 97 and the Howard and Frederick county borders. The study area, traditionally an agricultural region that recently has experienced rapid residential development, does not include Mount Airy.
The county commissioners asked the planning office to submit recommendations by year's end for zoning changes that could allow different types of developments in the region, which has a population of about 11,000.
The commissioners' order for a comprehensive zoning study was prompted by a 1991 decision in which they rejected a request to rezone a 360-acre farm near Berrett. The rezoning would have cleared the way for development of a luxury 108-home subdivision and a golf course.
Planners will evaluate whether some areas of the region are suitable for a high-technology and professional office industrial park, higher densities and developments featuring a mixture of commercial, office and residential uses with a "village center" concept.
But first, a consultant must analyze whether public water and sewer would be economically feasible, and what type of systems could support the developments, said planner Gregg Horner, the project's coordinator.
"It's one of the initial things we have to find out in a comprehensive land-use study," said Horner. "It determines how many possibilities we have. If we can't provide public water and sewer, it limits the possibilities for land uses."
The planning office, assisted by an appointed citizens committee, also is studying the region's transportation network, environmental conditions and school population projections to determine what types of development would be feasible without detracting from the quality of life.
Some members of the committee say agriculture no longer is viable in the region because farms are surrounded by houses. They suggest that some land should be rezoned for higher-density residential development so farmers can be compensated fairly. Others say more job opportunities should be available in the region, which has become a bedroom community for Baltimore and Washington commuters.
The consultant will study the feasibility of providing public water and sewer in defined regions near Woodbine, Morgan, Winfield, Taylorsville and the area bounded by Route 97 and Hoods Mill, Woodbine and Fannie Dorsey roads. A contract is expected to be awarded by June 12, and the study should be completed in September.
The consultant will study the possibility of extending the Freedom District water and sewerage systems, and the potential impact of the planned Gillis Falls Reservoir, a project now shelved because of environmental conflicts. The consultant also will evaluate water source options and alternative techniques for disposing of sewage, and it will provide cost estimates.
"We want to have a system that's going to pay for itself," said Horner. "The recommendation may be that it's not feasible because of a lack of water or it's economically impossible."