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No reason for delay


AFTER NEARLY five years of effort -- and purposeful delay -- the county commissioners finally seem poised to adopt a new comprehensive land use plan for Carroll.

For the most part, it isn't worth the wait.

In essence, the commissioners will accept much of the 125-page version originally drafted by the Planning and Zoning Commission over two years ago.

But the revised wording will make nearly everything optional, up to the discretion of the commissioners. Specific "strategies" will become less concrete, nonbinding "objectives."

That is what is wrong with Carroll land use decisions today -- too many ad hoc rezoning decisions by commissioners who feel no restraint of code or plan.

The Master Plan should not handcuff the county's elected leaders in making decisions. But neither should it legitimize free-form development decisions in a county that demands rational, planned use of its land resources.

Carroll has gone without comprehensive overhaul of its land use plan since 1964. The county's population has more than doubled since then, becoming more suburban and more a commuter society. Planning is essential. It affects crucial decisions on public services, farmland preservation, environmental quality and thebudget.

The final Master Plan, reportedly agreed to in a meeting last week between the planning panel and commissioners, may meet the state legal requirements.

The threatened loss of state funds for various projects is one factor in the commissioners' reluctant decision to finally adopt any land use plan.

But a toothless set of guidelines, of conflicting and fuzzy objectives, shows no mastery of proper land use planning.

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