Effort to be town fails; Eldersburg's pursuit of incorporation lacked funds, people; Goal was referendum; Status would grant strength in shaping growth, some say


A fledgling effort to incorporate Eldersburg - Carroll County's most populated area - has died for lack of money and volunteers.

In the past dozen years, residents of the county's premier growth area frequently have tried to organize themselves into Carroll's ninth town and one of the largest municipalities in the state. None of the efforts have gone beyond the initial steps.

The latest attempt came from Phil Bennett of Eldersburg and a few members of an Eldersburg community group advocating more local control for the nearly 30,000 residents.

They sent out a questionnaire in December to gauge interest and solicit volunteers. About 30 responded with offers to help. Twenty showed up at the first organizational meeting, but participation has dropped since.

"It is the same old problem: no volunteers," said Bennett. "People had good reasons for dropping out. Two or three hard-working and enthusiastic people are just not enough."

Bennett estimated he would need about 25 volunteers to research and as many as 50 to conduct a petition drive that would bring incorporation to referendum.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier had met with the group in March and lent her support as long as the community supported the incorporation through a petition and referendum. The commissioners can reject incorporation.

"State law allows the county to terminate the incorporation process," said Bennett.

But the county refused to appoint a liaison who could help organizers address technical, legal and financial issues.

The costliest aspect of the process was a requirement for a survey. Eldersburg sprawls across as much as 47 square miles.

"How are we supposed to accurately define boundaries?" asked Bennett.

Incorporating any portion would mean defining boundaries. Even using natural boundaries, such as Liberty Reservoir, and existing, surveyed roads, such an undertaking would be expensive. The group has no means to pay for the extensive survey.

Bennett said he was disappointed but not discouraged by the outcome of the latest effort, adding: "I hope this comes up again."Dissatisfaction with what many call an indifferent county government has been a factor in the push for a mayor and town council. Residents should have a voice in local issues, organizers say.

"We need to gain control over planning and zoning," said Bennett.

Bennett illustrated his point at a meeting of the Freedom Area Citizens Council last night.

There, a small group of residents decried the pressures they are experiencing from growth, particularly seasonal water shortages that trouble South Carroll.

"We keep getting told that we have representative government here, but we don't have it," said Mike Naused, a member of the citizens council. "We don't want more building in the watershed. What we need is more water. ... If we're incorporated, we could make our own decisions."

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