400 attend hearing on growth plan; Many bring petitions against proposal for more development; 'It is unthinkable'; Burdens on roads, schools listed as continuing problems


Residents of Carroll County's most densely populated area besieged officials last night with questions, comments and criticisms on the latest growth plan proposed for Eldersburg and Sykesville.

About 400 people attended the hearing at Liberty High School, many bringing neighborhood petitions opposing the plan.

Ted Cusick collected 425 signatures from his neighbors in the Linton Springs area protesting a proposed development that would add about 250 homes.

Many offered statistics on roads, schools and public utilities, burdened by the nearly 30,000 residents -- more than double the number since the last growth plan was written 22 years ago for the county's southern end, known as the Freedom area.

Most of the improvements envisioned in that plan were never funded. Until the problems are addressed, residents said, they strongly oppose more housing developments.

"We don't want to bear the brunt of mistakes made in the past," said Greg Fornaro, a resident of Taper Court. "How can problems be resolved by adding more houses?"

The plan proposes rezoning farmland to allow for construction of nearly 3,000 homes.

"It is unthinkable to develop land, particularly along Obrecht Road, without improving it as was planned 20 years ago," said Vince DiPietro, a resident who lives near that road. "Let's have roads and schools first before houses are built."

Members of the Freedom Area Citizens Council, an unofficial board that acts as liaison between residents and the county, were among the most vocal critics of the plan. The council also submitted a 17-page document detailing its opposition.

"The proposed increase in housing density will exacerbate the water supply problem as well as other public facilities," said Phil Bennett, chairman of the council.

Freedom, which suffers seasonal water shortages, supplies about 6,500 households with water drawn from Baltimore's Liberty Reservoir. The plan calls for increasing the daily allotment from 3 million to 5 million gallons and expanding the 30-year-old treat- ment plant. The county expects to build several wells at Springfield Hospital Center to augment the water supply.

Residents were also concerned with classroom space in South Carroll, where nearly all the schools are surrounded by portable classrooms. While a high school is planned, no elementary or middle schools will be considered for at least 12 years.

Many residents questioned the 21 proposed road projects in the plan. The 1977 plan called for 20 connector and service roads to relieve traffic on Eldersburg's major thoroughfares. None has been completed, and several await developers to finish.

A county-commissioned traffic study predicts most intersections along Route 26 in Eldersburg will fail without major improvements. Many of those attending the hearing were opposed to the connector road, and favored improvements to the existing thoroughfares.

"[Routes] 26 and 32: That's the only way to deal with traffic here," said Eric Sheldon, who favors eliminating most of the connector roads which, he argued, "only benefit development."

Many of the comments generated loud applause. "This is an ill-conceived plan for all of us who are guardians over what we have," said Frank Longo of Caren Drive. "Ask communities who have overdeveloped if they'd like to go back. The answer is obvious."

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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