Planning Department meeting tonight to seek comments on development plan


Southwest Carroll residents will have a chance to comment tonight on a county Department of Planning draft report outlining goals for development of the region and how to achieve them.

The planning office sent letters to about 3,000 property owners in the 50-square-mile region -- bounded by Md. 26, Md. 97 and the Howard and Frederick county borders -- to advise them of the meeting and the developing comprehensive plan. The land-use study, assigned by the county commissioners in 1990, does not include corporate Mount Airy.

The community meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the South Carroll High School auditorium.

The county intends to have another informational meeting before a public hearing to discuss proposed changes to the master plan, said planner Gregg Horner. Development regulations also could be changed or adopted.

The draft report, released yesterday, evaluates existing conditions and suggests how to protect desirable qualities, improve on others and create new opportunities. Following is a summary:

* Community design and residential development: Sprawling, low-density residential development has interrupted scenic views. Vistas should be preserved by building houses along tree lines rather than along roads or in open fields, and making development mesh with topography.

Clustering houses on smaller lots should be encouraged to reduce sprawl, increase open space and lower government costs for providing services. "It is not the density of the area which affords problems, but the design," the report says.

Crossroad villages should be developed as community and commercial centers. Historic sites should be preserved.

A wider range of housing should be provided as options to the typical single-family home on a large lot. The median home price is $148,900, the highest in the county. Smaller lot sizes and higher densities should be provided in crossroad villages to reduce housing costs and provide variety.

* Economic development: Campus-like industrial parks should be considered to counteract the region's lack of employment opportunities and reduce the tax burden on residences. The county should consider establishing roads, water and sewer systems in anticipation of business development. Businesses could pay back costs.

* Public services: A plan outlining the provision of adequate schools, water and sewer facilities, roads, parks, and police and fire protection should accompany the development plan. The county should consider paying for such services in advance and requiring reimbursement from developers.

Crossroad villages could establish a "special tax district" to pay for some services often provided by municipalities.

* Recreation: The report suggests developing a path and "greenway" network -- corridors that connect parks, wildlife areas and neighborhoods -- with a bike path system to parallel it. Equestrian trails also could be integrated. Neighborhood parks should be provided.

* Environment: Efforts should be focused on preserving sensitive areas, such as streams and wetlands, from the impact of development, possibly by placing those lands into permanent, protected open space districts. Wooded buffers should be maintained to protect water quality.

* Agriculture: Farming has declined in the region as development has increased, but it can remain a viable industry if enough land is preserved, the report says. A "transfer of development rights" program could be adopted, allowing farmers to be compensated for the development potential by trading the rights to another area designated for growth.

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