County officials faced a barrage of criticism Wednesday from more than 600 South Carroll residents who turned out to voice their frustration with what they say is uncontrolled growth.
The crowd filled every seat in the cafeteria at Carrolltowne Elementary. More people lined the walls and stood nearby in adjoining corridors at the meeting that lasted several hours.
"This crowd highlights the congestion," said John Mountcastle, a Carrolltowne resident. "Your being here shows you care and are paying attention to what is happening here."
Opposition to a 250-unit rental townhouse complex proposed at Kalli Drive and Liberty Road spurred many to attend.
"The people here are restless and revolting," said County Commissioner Richard T. Yates. "With 250 more units, there is more strain on facilities. It's enough students that we would probably have to build another school."
A few residents harangued the commissioner about low-income housing.
"The reason most people live here is to escape low-cost housing," said Ed Martin of Carrolltowne. He produced several articles from The Sun on crime in poorer areas.
"I have been escaping low-cost housing all my life and my commute is long enough now," he said.
Howard Goldman of Hilltop Estates said the townhouses would attract the wrong element.
"Next we are going to get public transportation with all the worst people in the world," he said.
Monthly rents at the development would range from $500 to $800, said Steve Breeden, a developer of Carrolltowne, which was proposed in 1975. "I would not characterize that as low income," he said.
Eldersburg resident Sue Hopkins said it mattered little where the children lived. "We have 855 kids using this lunchroom every day," she said. "We can't afford any more whether they are low- , middle- or upper-income."
K. Marlene Conaway, acting county planning director, told residents that the site has had necessary zoning for the townhouse project for nearly 20 years so halting construction would be difficult. Because Security Development Corp., an Ellicott City builder, is not subdividing the 20 acres, the county's new adequate facilities law does not apply, she said.
Mr. Breeden said, "This is a matter of equity. For 20 years, Carrolltowne has been developing nicely in an orderly fashion. We should be allowed to continue."
If Security wins approval for the final phase of the development, construction could begin in the spring. Mr. Breeden said his company has compromised several times.
As part of its planned unit development, Security donated the land for a library and the school, where the meeting took place.
County Planning Commissioner Joseph Mettle told the crowd the project is not "a done deal."
"When officials see crowds like this, they pay attention," he said.
Mr. Mettle decried the number of portable classrooms in the area's four elementary schools.
Gary Dunkleberger, assistant superintendent of instruction for the county, said area schools are overwhelmed now, "without adding 250 more families to the mix."
Organizers gathered 602 signatures against the project to present to the Planning Commission. Based on the inadequacy of schools, roads, police and emergency services, the residents are asking the commission to deny approval of the project.
"We are not opposed to development," said Mr. Mountcastle. "We want to be your partners in creating a Carroll County that is good for business and for living."
Bill Wagner, president of Sykesville Freedom Volunteer Fire Company, said the addition of 750 people in a concentrated area would severely tax the company's ability to respond to %o emergencies.
"We will support any effort to cut growth, if congestion continues," Mr. Wagner said.
Mr. Mountcastle recounted difficulties with police protection in an area of 12,000 residents served by four resident state troopers.
He also cited a State Highway Administration report that rates the Ridge-Liberty roads intersection as a "D." All residents of the townhouses would use the intersection, he said, and then it probably would be rated "F," or failed.
Adequate water supply also was a concern.
Dan Hughes, founder of Solutions for a Better South Carroll, urged residents to focus on broader issues and get involved in planning. "It will be a never-ending process unless we get to the heart of the problem," Mr. Hughes said. "A lot of the current
regulations and the master plan are 20 years old and don't fit an area that has changed from rural to suburban."