The county will pay $35,000 to test a nationally known consultant's plan for growth management.
The County Commissioners agreed yesterday to hire, for a seven-week period, Dr. Robert H. Freilich, an attorney and planning expert who has worked successfully in other Maryland counties.
Dr. Freilich and two associates will work closely with county planners to draft interim development controls by March 31. Those controls could include a 20-month ban on new subdivision approvals. During the trial period, Dr. Freilich, who is based in Kansas City, Mo., will travel frequently to Westminster to work with county planners.
"He will find out what we are capable of doing," said Philip J. Rovang, county director of planning.
Dr. Freilich also will draft a proposal for updating the comprehensive master plan and creating a viable growth-management ordinance. He has agreed to use the county planning and legal staffs to minimize costs.
In two workshops in Westminster last month, Dr. Freilich impressed officials and convinced business and community leaders of the need for controls on residential growth, which has nearly tripled the county population in 30 years and left many schools and roads inadequate.
"Possibly for the first time in many years, we have a consensus on how to approach the problem," Mr. Rovang said.
Commissioner Donald I. Dell said the initial work will give the county a base "to fine tune plans and get an adequate facilities ordinance enacted."
Jerry Thurber, a resident of South Carroll, where more than 500 new homes were built last year and every school is overcrowded, said, "If we don't spend $35,000 now, we will be hurting for a lot more in the future."
Zeno Fisher, a county planning commissioner, said Carroll is getting Dr. Freilich to address the areas where it most needs his expertise. The fee might be expensive, but the effort will be a good test of Dr. Freilich's ability, "before we spend any more money," said Mr. Fisher.
The proposal, which the commissioners approved unanimously, will allow the county to try Dr. Freilich's method without making a commitment to an entire comprehensive plan revision, which could cost about $250,000.
"I was truly impressed with this man's presentation and I encourage you to go with the entire plan," said Joseph Mettle, a planning commissioner.
Commissioner Richard T. Yates alluded to the county's $5 million budget crisis and asked if Mr. Mettle could pass a hat for collections.
"It is wise to use Dr. Freilich's expertise, like a mentor," Mr. Yates said. "We have experienced planners on staff. We need a coach, not more players."
Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown said he had never seen anyone elicit such consensus on growth. At last month's workshops, nearly everyone, including local builders, agreed with Dr. Freilich's assessment, Mr. Brown said.
David Duree, planning commission chairman, said Dr. Freilich has a real grasp of the local situation and can "galvanize the community."
"I see him complementing our staff and putting together a viable document," Mr. Duree said. "I was particularly impressed that he kept emphasizing the need for economic development. We have a gross imbalance in our tax base. We need jobs here."