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Fighting for the wrong reasons Carroll County: Townhouse opponents have valid concerns, but rent size not among them.


SOUTH CARROLL residents have every right to be concerned about a proposed 250-unit Carrolltowne townhouse development. The project has been temporarily sidetracked and must reapply for subdivision approval. But at a meeting two weeks ago about the plans, an ugly undercurrent surfaced in the audience at Carrolltowne Elementary. Rather than bolstering their case to slow this development, the opponents' emotional outbursts undermined the legitimacy of their position.

Inadequate schools, roads and emergency services are substantive reasons to challenge the immediate construction of such a complex. Schools in the Eldersburg area are bursting with students. Adding 250 families without new school construction would exacerbate an already intolerable situation. Residents also make good points when they point to traffic problems and inadequate police coverage at present.

However, much of the recent criticism against these rental units were thinly veiled attacks that revealed economic and racial bigotry of the worst sort.

Carroll is not a county of just homeowners. Renters occupy about 28 percent of the county's housing stock, according to the 1990 Census. In terms of population, about 19 percent of all the county's residents lived in rental properties.

A number of people attending the meeting criticized developers for building units they contend would attract "low income" residents. With proposed monthly rents of $500 to $800 at the Carrolltowne project, the renters could not be low-income. Using a rule of thumb that housing costs should be about 25 percent of a household's income, these renters would have to earn between $24,000 and $38,400.

Until some of South Carroll's pressing infrastructure needs are addressed, restricting development makes sense. Now that a mistake in the building plat has been discovered, this project will invariably be delayed. Nevertheless, South Carroll residents must face the reality that development will eventually resume.

When it does, affordable housing should be part of the mix. The county must make a place for people who earn less than six-figure incomes and can't afford $250,000 homes.

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