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Permit limits for building gain support 2 commissioners back idea in talks on development; 1 of them is noncommittal; Move would signal radical shift in growth management


Saying the time has come to get serious about growth, at least two Carroll commissioners yesterday supported the idea of limiting the number of building permits the county issues.

"We're at another one of those point where we're going to redefine things," Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said at a meeting of the commissioners, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the school board.

The meeting, called by the planning commission, was supposed to discuss the commission's recently enacted moratorium on developments in districts with overcrowded elementary schools. What emerged, however, was a renewed push by the commissioners to change radically the way Carroll manages growth.

Last month, the planning commission put the brakes on a 157-unit project served by Friendship Valley Elementary School because that facility already has 76 students more than the 575 it was built to hold.

But commission members have been vexed by that decision. And departing Chairman Dennis P. Bowman insisted yesterday that something had to be done to alleviate any future moratoriums -- and soon.

"I don't see the planning commission action of last month as a way to control growth," Mr. Bowman said. "We have a problem here. Is there anything the school board can do to help us out?"

In a word, according to school officials yesterday, no. The planning commission suggested redrawing school boundaries to shift students to schools at or below their rated capacity. But that option would, in Westminster at least, result in more crowding at all area schools.

According to figures released yesterday, Carroll's elementary schools can absorb more than 950 students.

At the same time, some of those schools are overcrowded by 625 students.

School officials balked -- as they have before -- at any suggestion to redistrict or redesign schools to appease developers or the planning commission.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said that it "may be time to bite the bullet" and limit the number of building permits developers can obtain.

A months-old study of the county's adequate facilities ordinance suggests building permit limits as one way to bring growth and infrastructure needs in balance.

The report shows that 13,294 building permits were issued in the past 10 years.

The two commissioners -- Commissioner Richard T. Yates was noncommittal yesterday -- said they would have to figure out an equitable limit fairly distributed throughout the county.

By limiting building permits rather than delaying final plan approvals -- as the planning commission has done -- officials can slow the development of the nearly 9,000 lots that have been approved but not yet built on.

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