Carroll County's eight municipalities hope to find treasure in the governor's new "smart growth" legislative initiatives, but county government officials worry that the effort to slow urban sprawl could cut the flow of state money.
The issue is state aid -- who gets it and who doesn't.
In order to share the state's shrinking revenues "where the spending will be the most efficient and effective," Gov. Parris N. Glendening wants to direct aid to "priority funding areas."
The good news for Carroll's towns is that every municipality in the state would be designated as a priority spending area under the governor's plan.
"It appears on the surface that Taneytown will come out favorably," said city manager Charles P. Boyles II, who is looking for continued state financial help to improve the community's public utilities.
Town officials in Hampstead and Sykesville also are optimistic.
"We're encouraged," says Hampstead manager Neil Ridgely. The governor's proposal "does what we believe is correct by focusing growth on community planning areas."
Ridgely thinks that if the governor's initiatives are adopted, the state could help Hampstead cope with mounting costs at its water facility and provide money for a long-delayed municipal bypass.
"Everything the county and the state have laid out has been to reduce sprawl through the county," Ridgely said. "The governor started talking about this in June. This is not new to anybody."
But Steven C. Horn, chief of the county Bureau of Planning and Carroll's transportation expert, said he is "not sure what [smart growth] means for priority transportation projects" such as the Hampstead bypass or the proposed widening of Route 32 in South Carroll.
"I'm curious what action the legislature takes," Horn said. "As I listened to [deputy state planning director] Ron Young, I got the impression that the program is still somewhat in flux. I look forward with bated breath to seeing the outcome."
Sykesville town manager Matthew H. Candland agrees that it is too early to know how the program will work, but he said that xTC "conceptually, the town is in full agreement" with the governor's plan. "They are initiatives we've tried to implement here," he said. "Sprawl wastes land."
Nationally, many planners have been predicting that "suburban sprawl is going to kill us," Candland said. "The issue used to be property rights. Now, it's how are we going to pay for all of this?"
That is what is worrying county planning director Philip J. Rovang. Carroll is receiving $810,000 from the state to help with operating expenses in the current budget and another $12.4 million for capital projects.
If funding of county projects is to continue under Glendening's growth plan, the county would have to comply with specific criteria proposed by the governor or meet "narrowly defined exceptions." Generally, only those portions of the county that have an average density of at least 3.5 people per acre and have public water and sewer service or are projected to have it within six years would be eligible for state aid.
Much of the county's state aid has gone for schools. But Rovang fears the county might have to pick up a larger portion of that bill if the General Assembly adopts the governor's criteria without amendment.
Two schools now receiving or projected to receive state funding -- Linton Springs Elementary and Francis Scott Key High School -- would not be eligible for state aid under the proposed criteria, Rovang said.
The county remains committed to building schools where needed, Rovang said, even if they are outside the priority growth areas. Eventually, municipalities could begin annexing nearby school sites to make future schools eligible for state funding, he said.
Rovang said that a map the state drafted to show priority funding areas in Carroll "is 10 years out of date" and does not reflect information local planners have been sending to the state.
If Maryland looks at how property is zoned rather than how the property is designated in the county master plan, obtaining funding for economic development could be a problem, Rovang said. "I would hate to see economic development falter in some areas because it is not in an area given priority," he said.
"A more reasoned approach is to look at those areas in every county designated as urban growth areas," Rovang said. "But we think the state is going to allocate funds in those areas it deems beneficial to the state. There are going to be winners and losers."
Carroll County could lose school, road and other public works funds "unless the rules change," but that might be offset if it becomes a winner under the "rural legacy" part of the governor's plan, Rovang said.
Glendening wants state money now used for several land preservation programs to be redirected into a program "specifically designed to limit the adverse impacts of sprawl on agricultural lands and natural resources."
But if the state insists on designating a block area for preservation, Carroll could suffer, Rovang said, because it has taken a scattershot approach to farmland preservation. The county accepts qualifying farms into the program regardless of location.
"It sounds like there's going to be tremendous competition to qualify as one of the two or three preservation areas in the state," Rovang said.
Pub Date: 12/31/96