HAMPSTEAD'S TOWN government is on the verge of enacting legislation that will rein in residential development until adequate public infrastructure is in place. It is a clear-minded response to the development free-for-all of the past decade that has burdened the eastern Carroll County town's roads, water and sewer systems and public schools.
Two ordinances are key to Hampstead's program to manage growth. Under Ordinance 269, the town's planning and zoning commission could not grant subdivision approval if any of the public services -- roads, schools, emergency services, recreation and utilities -- are deemed inadequate. In effect, the ordinance would halt any development until additional public infrastructure is built, which might take years. The town council would -- and should -- have discretion to make exemptions, however.
The other component of the town's controlled growth plan is Ordinance 274 that deals with planned unit developments. PUDs allow for denser development than zoning rules otherwise permit. In exchange, the developer must satisfy certain requirements, such as setting aside open space, constructing and equipping recreation buildings and paying for traffic signals or landscaping. A developer would have to meet all the conditions outlined by the new ordinance before receiving a PUD designation.
Critics of the legislation say the town should not include in its adequate facilities ordinance services it cannot control such as schools and roads, which are county responsibilities. It is true that Hampstead cannot finance school or road construction. But the town doesn't have to blindly accept overcrowded schools or congested roads, particularly if additional development results in further degradation to Hampstead's quality of life.
Gaining control over their community and their destiny is the primary reason that groups of people decide to incorporate town governments. These two ordinances give Hampstead powerful tools to rationalize further residential development and prevent a compounding of the town's current problems. Most important, Hampstead's elected officials are carrying out the clear mandate voters gave them a year ago. Voters wanted their representatives to do more than just talk about controlling growth.