Brown: Managing Growth Is a Question of Will CAMPAIGN 1994


The candidates for Carroll County commissioner on the Nov. 8 ballot, Republicans Donald I. Dell, Richard T. Yates and W. Benjamin Brown, and Democrats Elmer C. Lippy, Rebecca A. Orenstein and Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh, were asked to respond to the following questions: What existing measures will you use to control Carroll County's residential growth? What new measures are needed? Their responses appear below:

More than anything, managing growth is a matter of will -- will we or won't we? If I could leave Carroll's voters with but one thought, it would be that Carroll County will have a bright future if we but realize our collective strengths. Carroll countians are one people; by pulling together we can shape that bright future.

When we look back upon the last two decades, we can clearly see that indecision on the part of Carroll's leaders has, in fact, been a decision to tolerate declines in our quality of life rather than face up to the tasks and costs of managing growth. The result can be seen in our crowded schools, congested roads, inadequate jail, water resources and recreational facilities.

I have long been an advocate of impact fees; limiting building permits; zoning that means what it says, and agricultural land preservation. Since I was first elected Westminster's mayor in 1989, the city's growth rate has been cut; water and sewer plants modernized and expanded; police manpower has been increased by 40 percent; recreational facilities have been greatly expanded, and the tax rate has been reduced by 9 percent.

The key to adequate facilities in a growing community lies with being able to generate revenues necessary to support increased bonding of capital projects. Carroll's present capital needs -- schools, jail, office buildings, roads, ag preservation, etc. -- we're talking on the order of $100 million. Expecting today's taxpayers to fully bear such costs is out of the question.

The only fair way to fund these costs is through bonding, because those who will move to Carroll during the 20- to 30-year life of the bonds and who use these facilities will share in paying for them. Impact fees generate a revenue stream which allows the county to afford higher levels of bonding, without sacrificing its good bond rating.

With 2,500 students now in portable classrooms and enrollment expected to climb by 7,000 over the next nine years, it's time that we get on with the task of forward-funding needed schools.

We also must quickly act to limit the issuance of building permits. Carroll issued 1,600 for new residential construction in 1993, with the heaviest concentrations in the Hampstead, Freedom and Westminster districts. Our eyes tell us that's too many.

While I believe that the inadequacy of school facilities within the Hampstead and Freedom districts would justify declaring a moratorium, such an action would cause more harm than good.

Twelve percent of Carroll's jobs, more than 4,000 workers, are in the construction industry. Putting parents in an unemployment line won't help children deal with crowded lunch lines. A better response is to slow construction within those districts by reducing the number of permits allowed, while fast-tracking construction of the needed schools.

Countywide, it is crucial that we maintain zoning integrity within Carroll's agricultural districts. While state and county funds have been used to purchase "development rights" to more than 20,000 of Carroll's farm acreage, the recent recession has interrupted the process and the future of further funding is uncertain.

One promising approach, which I support, involves the transfer of development rights (TDRs). Builders who wish higher-density zoning on land they purchase within a planned growth area must first purchase the development rights to an equal number of farm acres outside the planned growth areas. Such rights are then "traded" to the county, which permanently zones the rural acreage for agricultural-use only in return for the higher density re-zoning on the land to be developed.

Those are the tools for managing growth in Carroll County.

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