Carroll's Planning Commission is putting the final touches on its Southwest Plan, which may turn out to be a blueprint for the county's future growth because it outlines a way of preserving farms while allowing for future residential development.
There is a large impediment, however. One option calls for the creation of a village, which some residents claim smacks of "social engineering."
The planning staff has proposed the creation of an 1,100-acre village to be located around the intersection of Eden Mill Road and Route 97, a few miles west of Sykesville.
The village would contain 2,640 homes, some stores and businesses and be about the same size as Union Bridge. The population density would be similar to that of Westminster, county planners say. Much of the density would come from builders buying development rights from farmers in other parts of the county.
By creating such a "village," the plan would allow the smaller farms that have emerged in that part of the county to remain. A new rural residential zone would let developers build small subdivisions next to farms by combining large and smaller land parcels. The plan would permit development but maximize the amount of open space.
The idea of creating a village where one doesn't currently exist has disturbed a number of people. They complain the village will be artificial and force folks to live together.
Critics of the proposal forget that towns such as New Windsor, Union Bridge and Eldersburg were all initially created from fields and woods. Those towns, located on thoroughfares and later on railroad lines, started off as collections of shops, stables and taverns that grew larger over the years.
Just because this proposed village is being created in the last years of the 20th century rather than the 18th doesn't make it any more artificial than villages started two centuries ago. A planned village would certainly be better that the unplanned sprawl that gobbles up open space and replaces it with non-descript houses on one-acre lots.
If the objective is to preserve the maximum amount of Carroll's open space while allowing development, the proposed village may be the best solution. We hope that the Planning Commission keeps this in mind as it considers this plan.