Hampstead officials tonight will consider an ordinance that they think will help control the town's exploding growth.
After months of meetings and revisions, the legislation -- establishing guidelines for each level of development approval -- is expected to pass the four-member council that has made controlling growth its mission since taking office last spring.
The new rules also would require builders to obtain certifications that adequate water, roads, schools and other services can be provided to new residents.
Under the legislation, these certifications would expire within 180 days.
But the proposal could be too little, too late.
Without annexation, Hampstead's corporate limits allow only two more large developments. Two such projects won preliminary approval from the town last year.
"I could not necessarily argue with that viewpoint," said Councilman Stephen A. Holland. "I'd like to have seen this done five or six years ago. But we can only do what can be done now."
Manchester developer Martin K. P. Hill said the new regulations are too restrictive because council members want developers to choose from the town's list of approved consultants for road and water certifications.
"I think it's overkill," said Mr. Hill, who built most of Hampstead's new communities.
Mr. Hill's most recent Hampstead development, North Carroll Farms Section IV, received final approval for its 220 houses in August 1994. Westwood Park, which has won preliminary approval for 289 more units, is halfway through Hampstead's planning process.
Westwood Park would be subject to only part of the ordinance.
North Carroll Farms, which is being reviewed by a Carroll County circuit judge, would be affected by the proposed legislation only if it is sent back to Hampstead's Planning and Zoning Commission, Mr. Holland said.
Judicial review sought
Several town residents, including Mr. Holland, requested a judicial review of North Carroll Farms' approval this spring after members of Hampstead's Board of Zoning Appeals told the residents they lacked the standing to appeal the project.
The residents appealed the planning commission's approval of North Carroll Farms because state officials have judged two intersections on Route 30 to be hazardous, and because a relatively new elementary school is seriously crowded.
"The current administration doesn't plan to annex any land into town," Mr. Holland said.
"But we're not going to be there forever. We're trying to set up an ordinance that will take care of the town for many years to come," he added.
The new ordinance, if passed, wouldn't affect the town's relationship with Carroll County government either, said Jeanne Joiner, a county planner working with Hampstead.
Reviews to continue
County officials will continue to review development plans and give advice, but not certifications, to town officials, she said.
"I don't see where this will change what we do," Ms. Joiner said. "The final authorization for sign-off will remain with the town."
Hampstead officials, however, intend to change how they use the county's information, Mr. Holland said.
In the past, planning commission members chose to approve subdivisions even when information from the county and the state indicated that services were inadequate, he said.
"This ordinance makes the planning commission and the town stop when there is an adequate-facilities problem and solve it or agree with a developer to find a remedy before giving final approval," Mr. Holland said.
"The town has to take responsibility for what it approves or disapproves," he added. "What happens in our town is our problem."