Slowing growth next on agenda


A landslide victory is one thing, but Hampstead's new mayor and council say the hard part will be delivering what voters demanded so emphatically in Tuesday's election -- slower growth.

"It's bittersweet," said Lawrence Hentz of his 360 votes, the second-highest tally in the six-way council race.

"We're happy that the voters made a clear choice, but now we've got a lot of hard work to do," he said. "There are a lot of problems to deal with in a way that makes sense and is responsible to the citizens of the town. . . . That's going to be difficult."

His running mates, Christopher M. Nevin and Stephen A. Holland, captured the mayor's chair and the other open council seat with 433 votes and 365 votes, respectively.

About 30 percent of Hampstead's 1,799 registered voters turned out Tuesday, more than doubling the turnout in the 1993 election, in which eight people ran for three council seats.

All the candidates -- victors and losers alike -- agreed that the rapid pace of development in Hampstead was the main issue in this year's election. Everything else, from overcrowded schools to concerns about nitrates in the water, was a symptom of that quick growth, they said.

"The reality is that the voters of Hampstead have chosen a different path of growth," said incumbent Mayor C. Clinton Becker, who only received 115 votes in his losing re-election bid.

Mr. Becker, who has served one term, ran on his record of allowing development according to the town's master plan. He contended that overcrowded schools and traffic jams on Route 30 -- the main road through town -- were beyond Hampstead's capacity to correct.

Hampstead voters have chosen a path now that includes divesting the town's interests from those of local developers, Mr. Hentz said.

"Slowing growth is an enigma," he said. "You have to tread on that issue very carefully."

For instance, town officials cannot prohibit developers from building on their own land, Mr. Hentz said. But they can prohibit developers from building in conservation districts and can insist that the wells they provide are low enough in nitrates for the town to use in the water supply, he said.

"That will slow development, because once you make them do the responsible things, they won't be able to build larger developments as quickly," Mr. Hentz said.

However, Martin K. P. Hill -- the Manchester developer who has built much of the new housing in Hampstead -- discounted the perception of runaway growth. "That's not really the case," he said.

His proposal to build 220 houses over five years in the northern section of Hampstead is under appeal to Carroll County Circuit Court by a group of residents, including Mr. Holland. The project was approved by the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission in the fall.

Mr. Hill also said the election results did not surprise him.

"There has obviously been a failure on the part of the state and the county to maintain facilities at a level that is consistent with the growth," he said. "I can remember sitting at meetings 10 or 12 years ago on the Hampstead bypass and hearing the same rhetoric we're hearing today. It will be interesting to see how this group of elected officials proceeds."

Rhetoric or not, the new mayor and council members said they are determined to do something to answer the charge they've been given to slow development.

"The vote shows that people are concerned that continued overdevelopment is a detriment to the area," Mr. Holland said. "Development is necessary, but not at the speed and irresponsible rate . . . happening currently."

One losing candidate had nothing but good wishes for the three winners. "The people spoke, and I wish the victors all the best," said Haven Shoemaker, who garnered 115 votes in the council race. "I've already conveyed the sentiment that if there's anything I can do, give me a call. We're not all that very far apart on the issues."

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