Workshops will focus on amending growth plan; Many comments received on South Carroll's future


In two workshops this week, the Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission hopes to review numerous comments and amend a proposed growth plan for its most populated area.

The comments stem from a public hearing early last month on the Freedom Area Comprehensive Plan that drew about 500 residents. The county also received many letters, e-mails and petitions protesting the plan.

Residents are concerned about roads, schools and proposed zoning changes that could mean 3,000 more homes. The document addresses the next 20 years of development in South Carroll, where the population exceeds 28,000.

"More houses and no infrastructure, that is a legitimate concern," said Tom Hiltz, a planning commission member. "It would just be more of the same."

Development concerns residents who deal with crowded schools. Nearly all the schools in South Carroll are surrounded by portable classrooms. The newest elementary -- the area's fifth -- opened in September and is over capacity. Liberty High School relies on about a dozen portables to ease crowding in the building.

"People in South Carroll live with these problems every day," said Hiltz, a Woodbine resident. "There is emotion down there that needs to be understood."

Members of the Freedom Area Citizens Council, a residents' group that is a liaison with the county, expect to deliver fliers this weekend, urging residents to attend the workshops.

"We have urged everyone to attend these sessions so we know what goes on and how to respond afterward," said Phil Bennett, council chairman. "A good turnout will show the commission that people are still interested."

During the workshops, the commission will review all comments as well as the county planning department's responses and recommendations. The record, which makes up about 120 pages of reading material, has remained open for 60 days after the hearing. Several neighborhood petitions -- also part of the record with the letters and e-mails -- oppose proposed road improvements.

Comments on the plan from state planners and officials from counties surrounding Carroll are included.

"The staff responses basically recommend changes based on [public] comments," said Raj Williams, county planner for South Carroll. "The planning commission can either agree or disagree with our recommendations."

The majority of the comments focused on roads and land-use changes, "but we have comments for just about everything under the sun," said Williams.

Hiltz said community support is vital to the plan's success.

"We really need community support around this plan as it goes to the county commissioners," said Hiltz. "It will be easier for them to support if they know the community is involved in the process."

The amended plan will have another public hearing before the commission takes a final vote, probably not before April. The plan then would go to the county commissioners to consider for adoption. The board, which took office in December, has not addressed the county's comprehensive master plan.

The workshops, which will be held in Eldersburg, are open to the public, but the panel will not take more comments.

The workshops are at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Liberty High School, Bartholow Road, and 7 p.m. Thursday at Oklahoma Road Middle School. Information: 410-386-2145.

Pub Date: 2/28/99

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