County planners unveil a futuristic view of southwest Carroll


WINFIELD -- On Wednesday, county planners unveiled their futuristic view of an energized southwest Carroll -- a place with new crossroads villages, employment campus zones, clustered housing and special tax districts.

Several residents, suspicious of the planners' lingo and unimpressed with the lofty aspirations, envisioned the development of another Columbia or Reston, Va., and asked that their community be left as is.

Linda Pallay, who lives outside Mount Airy, said she wants merely to retain the bedroom community atmosphere of southwest Carroll -- a region characterized by expensive homes on large lots sprawled across fields with few business centers and a declining agricultural base.

"If I wanted to live in Columbia, I would have moved there," Mrs. Pallay told planners at an informational meeting at South Carroll High attended by about 250. "I like the area the way it is now. I would hate to see it changed drastically."

The Department of Planning, assisted by a local citizens advisory committee, is developing a comprehensive growth plan for the 50-square-mile region bounded by Md. 97, Md. 26 and the Howard and Frederick county borders. The study does not include the Mount Airy planning area.

The draft plan emphasizes these goals: creating community and commercial centers; clustering homes to mesh with topography and preserve vistas; providing a wider variety of housing; preserving open space; maintaining agriculture as a viable industry; attracting "clean" businesses to campus-like industrial parks; providing schools and adequate public services in advance of growth; expanding recreational facilities; and protecting natural resources.

Achieving the goals could require changes in the county's zoning, development regulations and financing practices. Those could include: increasing housing densities in crossroads villages; making subdivision rules more flexible; paying for infrastructure up front and requiring reimbursement from developers; and implementing a "transfer of development rights" program, allowing farmers to sell building lot rights to designated growth areas.

Higher-density housing and business development hinge on the county's ability to provide public water and sewer systems and improve the road network, planners said.

The region is being studied because of its rapid growth and the changing nature of farming, said planners. The county commissioners assigned the study in 1991 after they denied rezoning of a 360-acre farm in the region. Other regions could be studied subsequently, said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell.

Bob Pitcher, who lives near Berrett, received applause when he challenged the attempt to create a sense of community.

"You've got to be careful to think you can force people to do other than what they're comfortable doing," said the Baltimore County government social worker. "I think a lot of people are here because they like the way it is."

Crossroads villages would be designed to match the old charm of rural New Windsor rather than the more modern, suburban Columbia, said assistant planning director Marlene Conaway.

Citizens advisory committee members defended the plan and their intentions.

"Believe me, they're looking out for your interests," said Louis Pecoraro, a liaison from the county Planning and Zoning Commission.

Several panel members who are lifelong farmers in the region were critical of residents who move into the region and then "want to shut the door."

Current zoning will allow growth in the region, and the study provides residents a chance to influence it, said Ms. Conaway.

"You're not going to freeze it where it is today," she said. "There's a lot of property out there, and a lot of equity in that property."

The plan is in its early stages, planner Gregg Horner stressed. Several more informational meetings and public hearings will take place before changes could be adopted.

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