Disputes with two developers have prompted Carroll County government to consider punishing developers who change subdivision plans without Planning Commission approval.
The county commissioners appear ready to adopt the county's first fine for violating subdivision regulations.
"We're about as wide open on penalties as you'll see any county," Planning Director Edmund R. Cueman told the commissioners at a recent briefing on the proposal.
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy endorsed the changes to create a possible penalty and authorize the Planning Commission to require an amended plat where the developer is found to have made substantial unauthorized changes.
A developer found guilty could face fines up to $5,000 a day, with each day of violation treated as a separate offense under the proposed subdivision regulation changes.
Any fines would be levied by a judge, not by county officials, explained Michelle M. Ostrander, the former assistant county attorney who advised the Planning Commission on the regulation changes.
The commission decided to toughen its stance after a dispute with Kenmar Manor developer Wynne A. Stevens.
Mr. Stevens acknowledged that he didn't get the Planning Commission's approval to change driveways in the subdivision at White Rock and Martz roads, which had been approved in 1988.
But, he argued, his changes improved the development.
The subdivision was approved for 12-foot-wide, straight gravel driveways, each shared by several houses, he said. He widened the driveways to 18 feet, paved them and curved them for aesthetic interest.
"Because it was an improvement, I didn't think I'd be subject to criticism. I have since learned otherwise," Mr. Stevens said.
Mr. Stevens said he didn't go back to the Planning Commission because "it's not really practical. It just takes forever."
The county government withheld $81,600 of Mr. Stevens' public works bond. He sued the county to recover the money. The case was settled out of court.
County Attorney Charles W. Thompson said the county took no financial losses in the lawsuit. He said the $94,000 bond and interest were used to cover contractors' claims, county administrative expenses, and the costs of revised drawings and plats.
When final recording expenses have been paid, any money remaining from the bond will go to the Kenmar Manor community association, he said.
The Planning Commission spent long hours in 1992 discussing an easement request in Tannery Manor subdivision at Gorsuch and Naugahyde roads. In that case, Mr. Cueman said, property that was shown as a single lot on the developer's recorded plat was later divided on deeds filed at the courthouse.
The easement was requested to help settle a lawsuit between property owners in the subdivision, although the suit did not involve the county.
The planning group recommended the changes to the commissioners in February, after a public hearing and work sessions to draft amended regulations.