Commissioners hear landowners' issues


In a question-and-answer session designed to nail down the facts of several local issues, a Carroll landowners' group invited the county commissioners last night to respond to concerns about water supplies, development rights and land deals.

Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Donald I. Dell were on comfortable turf, applauded and cheered by a group that first and foremost trumpets the protection of property rights.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge again was in the minority. She has cast the dissenting vote on several recent decisions, including the construction of a water treatment plant at Piney Run Reservoir, an unsigned watershed protection agreement for Liberty Reservoir, and a recent land deal in which the county paid more than six times the appraised value for farmland outside Uniontown.

For many attending the Carroll County Landowners Association meeting at Westminster Senior Center, the issue was simple: Why would Carroll officials even think about letting Baltimore County and Baltimore City influence rezoning and development in 40 percent of the county?

That's what Frazier and Dell say they would be doing by signing the Reservoir Watershed Protection Agreement, a document that outlines environmental safeguards for land surrounding the Liberty Reservoir, part of the metropolitan water supply.

The two commissioners won't sign the pact, which they believe violates property owners' rights. Nearly 40 percent of Carroll falls within the watershed area, including Sykesville and Eldersburg, and includes five of seven areas designated for growth by Carroll planners.

Gouge argued the agreement does not allow other jurisdictions to dictate local zoning issues, that it merely requires the county to do its best to protect the environment during development.

But Frazier drew the biggest applause of the evening with her response. The problem with regionalization, she said, is that if the elected commissioners rezone something and residents don't agree, they can vote for a different commissioner in the next election.

"That's why we need to keep rezoning on a local level," Frazier continued. "If you don't like something that we've done, don't vote for us."

Frazier and Dell have voted to take water from Piney Run Reservoir instead of drawing more water from Liberty Reservoir, a 45-billion-gallon lake that forms part of Carroll's border with Baltimore County..

Gouge favors waiting on building a Piney Run treatment plant and exploring options with wells in the South Carroll area - a solution Frazier calls a "Band-Aid."

Frazier and Dell voted last month to pay Sidney Darrell Lease Jr. and his brother, David Vincent Lease, $850,000 for farmland in Union Bridge - more than six times the property's appraised value - to make construction of a road and railway spur possible. The project will serve Lehigh Cement's plant, which is expected to double in size. Gouge abstained from voting.

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